Guard Rodney Stuckey has always tantalized the Pistons with his talent. His game against the Lakers Tuesday night was one of those nights.
With the NBA's leading scorer and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant on the floor, as well as the 7-foot duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Stuckey was the game's shining star. He had 34 points, including six in overtime, as the Pistons upset the Lakers 88-85 at The Palace.
"We couldn't stop him," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "We blitzed him, we played our regular defense and all he did was just drive the ball every time. He got to the rim and got lay-up after lay-up after lay-up."
In recent weeks, the Pistons' fortunes have hinged on Stuckey's energy and motivation levels. He has averaged 28 points in their last five victories but has also thrown in a scoreless clunker in Toronto, a five-turnover stinker against Philadelphia and a 6-of-22 shooting night in Memphis.
"There's a direct correlation between us playing better basketball and Rodney playing at a higher level," said coach Lawrence Frank, whose team has gone 9-6 since a 4-20 start. "You obviously need your better players to play well to win. When he has that rack mentality, as he did against Charlotte (29 points), that's the sort of mentality we want."
Stuckey recent scoring surge has lifted his season average to 15.5 points per game. His mid-range and three-point shooting have improved but his success is usually dependent upon finishing at the rim and free throw shooting. He has taken 216 free throws, 48 more than leading scorer Greg Monroe.
"I'm just reading what the defense is doing," he said. "I know when I get the ball off a miss, my mindset is to push it as fast as I can while the defense is not set. That allows me to get to the basket and get fouled or something like that."
With home games against Atlanta Friday and Toronto Saturday, Stuckey can make amends for two of his poorer performances this season. He was held to 14 points in an overtime loss to the Hawks Jan. 27 while counterpart Joe Johnson had a game-high 30 points. Then there was the scoreless night in Toronto right before the All-Star break Feb. 22, when Stuckey seemed overanxious to get his five-day vacation started. But when he's at the top of his game, as he was Tuesday, he can play like an All-Star.
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