Pistons Break 8-Game Losing Skid Without Allen Iverson

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons found their answer without The Answer.
Richard Hamilton had 31 points and six assists in his return to the starting lineup in place of Allen Iverson, and the Pistons ended their eight-game losing streak with a 93-85 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
"It wasn't something that I felt was added pressure because this is what I do," Hamilton said of returning to his starting role. "This is my comfort zone. But it is what it is and we got a win and that was a great thing."
Rodney Stuckey had 22 points and Tayshaun Prince added 17 for the Pistons, who snapped their longest losing streak in 14 seasons. Rasheed Wallace, who was fined $25,000 by the league earlier Friday for his actions after an ejection Wednesday night, finished with six points.
Dwight Howard had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Rafer Alston scored 14 for the Magic, who fell again to a Pistons team that has knocked them out of the playoffs the last two seasons and has won 21 of the past 26 meetings.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was more than frustrated after the latest loss, saying his team is "a long way from being able to beat" Detroit and has to find a way to "get tougher."
"One thing is you get tired of getting your (butt) kicked," Van Gundy said. "It's like the kid on the playground whose getting beat up all the time and he takes it and runs home. At some point, enough's enough, and he stands up for himself."
Iverson went back to Detroit to see a specialist for his stiff back after an MRI exam Friday came back negative. Detroit coach Michael Curry said Hamilton would have replaced Iverson regardless in an attempt to get the Pistons out of their rut.
"That guy's been quietly seething there for a while," Van Gundy said of Hamilton. "I was worried about that going in. This is a guy who's an All-Star and he's been sitting on that bench waiting for a chance to get back in."
Playing with renewed passion and quick ball movement, the Pistons displayed the kind of team effort that has led them to six straight Eastern Conference finals.
Antonio McDyess made a jumper with 6:10 remaining to extend Detroit's lead to 83-76, the last of six straight Pistons points that built a lead they would never give up. Orlando got within five down the stretch before McDyess and Hamilton made consecutive shots to put Detroit ahead 91-83 with 2:52 left.
"One thing with Orlando is that if we continue to play Dwight straight up with Rasheed there, it allows us to stay on their 3-point shooters," Prince said. "And if we can eliminate that, then we put ourselves in good position to get the game."
Detroit outscored the Magic 28-14 in the third quarter, forcing six turnovers and converting them into easy baskets. Stuckey's 3-point play capped a 15-4 Pistons spurt to begin the half, and they continued their sharp shooting to end the third quarter ahead 71-65.
There were six lead changes in the second quarter until the Magic used a 12-2 run, ending with a 3-pointer by Rashard Lewis that put Orlando ahead 47-38. The Pistons started to cut into the lead, but Howard made a pair of free throws and his dunk in the waning seconds of the half gave Orlando a 51-43 lead that ignited the crowd.
Things weren't much different in the first half.
Courtney Lee stripped Hamilton and turned it into an uncontested dunk to cap a 13-3 run that put the Magic ahead 20-14 in the opening quarter. Hamilton would get revenge, ending the period with a jumper over Lee at the buzzer to tighten Orlando's lead to 24-20.
"We want to get back into being aggressive, getting in passing lanes and pressing," Hamilton said. "We did a great job of that tonight."


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