The Pistons finally had all five starters play well — together.
Oh, they all had their flaws. But they did enough to win, and that’s something Detroit hadn’t done in 20 days.
The Pistons avoided their first nine-game losing streak since they dropped 13 in a row to end the 1993-94 season.
Detroit’s new starting backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton led the way. And unlike Allen Iverson, they both scored efficiently.
Stuckey scored 22 points (15 shots), his most in 21 games. And Hamilton scored 31 (18 shots), his most in nine games.
That’s a combined 53 points on 33 shots. By comparison, Iverson averages 43 points in games that he takes at least 33 shots — and that includes a 60-point game in 2005.
In their last game, the Pistons trailed the Hornets, 20-11, with Iverson and outscored New Orleans, 76-70, without him. Last night, Detroit continued to play better without the future Hall of Famer.
In addition to the Pistons’ stellar backcourt play, Tayshaun Prince chipped in 17 points.
Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess played solid defense on Dwight Howard. And their 23 combined rebounds helped Detroit win the board war by 10, their best margin in 10 games.
The Pistons were more cohesive and scrappier than they had been in a long time. The starters took turns scoring. They helped on defense. And they appeared to actually take pride in their play.
But they certainly weren’t perfect.
Stuckey didn’t balance scoring and floor-general duties, notching one assist and four turnovers.
Hamilton controlled the ball a little too much and had three turnovers.
Prince disappeared down the stretch and didn’t take a shot in the last nine minutes of the game.
McDyess slowed ball movement and didn’t have any assists.
Wallace shot 2-for-11.
And the Pistons bench scored just nine points, its fewest since it scored six against Charlotte on Jan. 13. But Iverson, in his new sixth man role, could help.
Maybe it’s just greedy to think of how a win over one of the NBA’s elite teams could have been smoother.
But all of a sudden, this season has hope.
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