By Ashley Dunkak
AUBURN HILLS (CBS DETROIT) – In his first game back in the Motor City since 2008, Chauncey Billups delivered exactly how fans would dream – calmly, flawlessly, in the most important moments of a game.
As the Detroit Pistons defeated the Washington Wizards 113-102 Wednesday night, Billups orchestrated the offense, dishing out five assists, and created plenty of offense himself. He drilled four 3-pointers in the game, including two back-to-back 3s late in the fourth quarter that bumped Detroit’s lead to 13 and essentially put the game out of reach for Washington.
The Wizards hung around, but Billups knocked them down.
“That was the thing that kind of settled us down,” head coach Maurice Cheeks said. “Chauncey said it in the huddle that they were going to make a run, which they did, he said, ‘Let’s just stay composed, and use the guy making the shot to compose your shot,’ which I really thought kind of settled us down and got us in the place where we needed to be.”
Other players simply referred to Billups’ nickname – “Mr. Big Shot” – to explain his execution in those key situations.
“Some people just have it in them, those ice-cold veins,” said forward Greg Monroe. “He just has a knack for making big shots. Tonight was only another example of it.”
Billups did more than just score, though his 16 points on 50 percent shooting certainly helped. Besides running the offense on the floor, he talked the team through various situations during timeouts as well.
“He’s been in every situation you could possibly be in in a basketball game, and he was just saying what we could get to, what we had to do to end runs, or whatever we needed, he was just explaining how we could do it,” Monroe said. “It’s been great. He’s knowledgeable. He has so much knowledge of the game. It’s like an extra coach, really.”
Despite the positive impression he made in his return – at one point fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” – Billups said he was a bit nervous, ready to get the first game completed.
“We had had a couple bad possessions at the start of the game, just butterflies, even me, 17 years, started today out, always have butterflies on the first night,” Billups said. “But I got a good look, and I’d like to think when I can get a good look, I feel like I can make it.”
In the absence of guards Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey, both out with non-basketball injuries, Billups played almost 31 minutes, and Will Bynum, who worked with Billups extensively in the off-season, got 38 minutes on the floor. Bynum could not hold back at a grin about his playing time.
“Definitely it feels good,” he said with a laugh. “It feels even better that we got the win.”
Billups sounded thrilled that Bynum, who finished with 19 points and five assists, did so well in Wednesday’s opener..
“I’ll tell you what, I’m happy for Will,” Billups said. “Will’s been playing well all camp. He worked his behind off. We worked out together this summer in Vegas. I knew he was going to be ready. For him to get the opportunity is good. It’s good.
“He was big all night for us, defensively and offensively,” Billups added. “He’s tough to guard on pick-and-rolls, so when he’s out there, you like to run pick-and-rolls so he can get in the teeth of the defense because not only can he score in there, he makes good plays as well. He’s tough to handle. That’s an advantage to us.”
Certainly, the Pistons this season will rely primarily on their frontcourt, the duo of Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Monroe, who combined for 55 points. At least the first time out, though, the backcourt looks quite competent too, and Billups is a big reason why.