Beating the Washington Wizards 96-85 on Wednesday night, the Pistons head into the All-Star break with the feeling of success still fresh in their minds. Breaking on a high note is great, but the real value of Wednesday's victory was in the success that the Pistons' recent duel point guard backcourt had in the fourth quarter. The only hold-up was that the guard combination having most of the success wasn't the one the Pistons are investing their future in.
While many have been rooting for the Jose Calderon, Brandon Knight combination to flourish, Knight doesn't yet seem able to handle the shooting guard duties. In the six games since moving to the two, Knight has reached double figures just twice and has gotten to the free throw line only nine times total. For a Pistons team looking to collect wins anyway they can, having a starting shooting guard who can't score consistently and won't get himself to the line is a problem.
Before you go out and blame the structure of the duel point guard lineup, Wednesday night was proof enough that the prior issues may have more to do with personnel.
The fourth quarter of Wednesday's game was mostly back-and-forth until Will Bynum and Calderon found themselves on the floor together. With the score tied at 76 and nearly five minutes on the fourth quarter clock, Calderon and Bynum put on a two-guard display that the Pistons wouldn't have won the game without. Of the 20 points the Pistons scored in the game's final five minutes, Bynum and Calderon accounted for 14 of them.
Pushing Calderon to the off-guard spot, Bynum handled the point guard duties for the final push. Bynum was able to drive the lane for a layup, draw a foul and get to the charity strip, or drive and dish for open jumpers. Bynum had 10 points total during the fourth quarter, but eight of those points came during the five minute span when he and Calderon shared the backcourt. There were only three assists handed out in the game's final five minutes, and all came from Will Bynum passes.
Calderon played off Bynum well, scoring six points in the final five minutes while playing shooting guard. Calderon's late-game scoring came on two, three-point makes off Bynum assists.
Wednesday night shouldn't serve as a cry to start the Bynum-Calderon tandem, it only shows that the Pistons are capable of having success with a duel point guard lineup. That's a big thing, by the way. The Pistons hadn't experienced a great deal of success playing Bynum and Calderon together before Wednesday night, and that lack of options cost the Pistons in moments when it seemed as if a struggling Knight was the only option Lawrence Frank had. Now that Frank has had success with Bynum and Calderon, there's more flexibility within the multi-guard lineup. Another big thing as Frank's late-game lineup decisions are never set in stone, but are rather the product of in-game success.