|Rodney Stuckey (13 points in Game 2 vs. Boston) has been a revelation off the bench. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Forgive yourself if you don't know who Rodney Stuckey is. The assassin's role he's been playing in the Pistons' series against the Celtics is a new revelation, at least in New England.
Stuckey was the 15th pick in last summer's draft after averaging 24.6 points at Eastern Washington, but because of three broken bones in his left hand during the preseason, he was basically invisible.
In December, when the Pistons and Celtics were giving the league its first preview at the Eastern Conference finals, Stuckey was in the middle of a stretch of 25 missed games. He didn't make his debut until Dec. 21, two days after the Pistons' first game against the Celtics. In his two regular-season contests against the Celtics, he played a combined 24 minutes.
But things have changed for Stuckey.
Paul Pierce singled him out and called him "the X-factor" in the Pistons' 103-97 victory Thursday in Game 2.
"I don't think the bench played that well outside of Stuckey," Pierce said. "I thought he really gave us problems."
Stuckey scored 13 points in 17 minutes in Game 2 after putting up 9 points in Game 1.
"I think he was big off the bench," teammate Richard Hamilton said. "Huge making plays when we needed plays to be made."
With all the praise, Stuckey acted like he was hardly surprised.
"I'm never scared," he said. "I'm not nervous."
It's all a part of the maturation process that most in the Pistons' locker room say has been pretty fluid. The injury is in the past, and it hardly stunted his progress. Stuckey's regular-season numbers were good enough for him to make second-team all-rookie.
The playoffs are just another phase.
"You see his maturation from the beginning of the playoffs to where he's at," said Pistons coach Flip Saunders. "He basically carried us at times . . . making shots and making plays."
The Pistons' bench has outscored the Celtics' bench, 31-23, in two games, and Detroit is plus-7 when Stuckey is on the court, which helps with Chauncey Billups still nursing his left hamstring.
"He has grown up a lot in the playoffs," said Billups. "As a rookie, he is so mature and so poised out there. He allowed me to sit on the bench [in Game 2] a lot longer than usual. Not only that, but he was a problem. I'm sure he will be in their scouting report over there because he can make plays."
Stuckey's confidence is as high as it can be, and he says it's because of veterans like Billups.
"I've got . . . all these guys behind me," he said. "They keep me poised and confident every day. Just being around them and them always being confident gives me the extra energy and confidence that I need as a player and an individual."