It’s been a long and successful NBA career for former Maryland star Steve Blake.
When the Detroit Pistons open up their Eastern Conference series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Blake could be a key reserve for his team.
Blake was no stranger to postseason success as he was an integral part of Maryland’s 2002 National Championship team. He was one of four players on that team to be drafted along with Lonny Baxter, Juan Dixon, and Chris Wilcox.
After Blake was drafted by the Washington Wizards back in 2003, he’s had several stops during his career. He’s been to the playoffs in eight of his 13 NBA seasons, including the last five campaigns.
Now Blake finds himself playing behind Detroit’s star guard Reggie Jackson. During the 2015-16 season, the former Terrapin has averaged 4.4 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in minutes per contest.
Coach Stan Van Gundy normally dips deep into his bench, so Blake should get plenty of playing time against Cleveland. Over the last five games, the Pistons have played no fewer than nine players and Blake has played at least 14 minutes in those contests.
Given his reserve role, Blake could likely see himself matched up with Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova. Both players are complementary pieces for their teams and pride themselves on their passing ability and defense.
Blake will be the floor general for Detroit’s second unit and is really more of a facilitator. The former Terp is averaging 2.5 assists during his playoff career, but keep in mind that he played just single-digit minutes in the last two postseasons with Golden State and Portland.
The Pistons possess plenty of shooters, so it’ll be up to Blake to get them the basketball.
However, Blake has the ability to knock down perimeter shots as well. He’s shooting 34.4 percent from beyond the arc this season and 47 percent (8-of-17) over the last five games.
Blake certainly isn’t going to be phased by the bright lights of the postseason. He’s been to the playoffs each of the past five seasons and actually averaged 14.0 points for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2012-13 playoffs in a pair of starts.
Jackson is obviously going to play a boatload of minutes in this series, and will need to if Detroit wants to have any chance of knocking off Cleveland. However, Blake will certainly provide a veteran presence off the bench, and could be one of the bigger x-factors.