AUBURN HILLS, Mich. The Detroit Pistons weren'tletting themselves celebrate after Wednesday night's loss to the Miami Heat.
They couldn't keep a few smiles off their faces, though.
The Pistons, coming off an embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, ledMiami 98-95 with 90 seconds to go before LeBron James scored the final sixpoints to let the Heat escape with a 101-98 victory.
"There are losses where you get embarrassed and there are losses where theother team just makes one or two more plays," Pistons coach Lawrence Franksaid. "The Oklahoma City game, we got blown out. Tonight, we lost on ourown terms. They just got a couple more plays than we did."
Detroit came into the game as massive underdogs, given their terrible recordand the fact that they were missing Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Will Bynum andCharlie Villanueva. They almost pulled off the upset because, for the firsttime this season, the old Austin Daye showed up.
Daye has struggled this season, seeing his minutes dip to barely 12 per game inJanuary (a month that included games of 0, 1 and 3 minutes). But the missingbodies meant that he got another chance on Wednesday. He made the most of it,scoring 18 second-quarter points on his way to a career-high 28.
"Once my first 3-pointer went down, I felt a huge rush ofconfidence," he said. "After that, things just felt right. We weredoing a great job of moving the ball and pulling their guys out of position, soI kept getting open shots. Give my teammates most of the credit they were theones getting me the ball."
Daye had only scored 45 points all season before Wednesday, and was shootingjust 26 percent, including only six percent on his 3-point attempts. Against theHeat, though, he hit 10 of his 18 shots, including 4 of 8 on threes.
"We knew he was still capable of doing this," said Greg Monroe, whoadded 20 points and 10 rebounds. "It was just a matter of time before hisshot started falling."
"You can't say enough good things about what Austin did today," Franksaid. "He wasn't in the rotation I wasn't even playing him but hestepped up tonight and had a great performance. Hopefully, this is aspringboard game for him."
Frank even trusted Daye, often a defensive liability, to guard James in thefourth quarter.
"That's exactly what I want," Daye said. "I don't want to be onthe bench. I want to be on the floor down the stretch, and I want to be playingan important role. That's why I'm here."
Daye did the job, getting what could have been the game-winning steal byknocking the ball away from James with 1:28 to play and the Pistons up 98-95.Mario Chalmers fouled Brandon Knight, but the rookie missed both free throwswhen he could have given the Pistons a five-point lead.
Detroit never scored again, and the Pistons record fell to 4-15, but therewere finally some encouraging signs.
"James got to the line six times, and we had some empty trips, but youhave to look at our fight for the whole game," Frank said. "If we canestablish this kind of effort as part of our DNA, we'll put ourselves inposition to win a lot of games."