Pistons save a little face with win
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)
John Kuester let out a noticeable sigh, then started walking off the court victoriously.
One win might not cure all that ails the Detroit Pistons, but on this night, the beleaguered coach could be proud of his team's effort.
Rodney Stuckey scored 28 points and made a big steal in the final minute, and the Pistons bounced back from an embarrassing start to the weekend with a 120-116 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday. One night earlier, Detroit used only six players in a lopsided loss at Philadelphia after several Pistons missed at least part of a team shootaround.
''We've had a lot of interesting things happen to our team,'' Kuester said. ''The guys that were out there tonight, God bless them. They really worked hard tonight. This shows that no one is entitled to anything. You earn respect every day, not from the past.''
Stuckey and Austin Daye, who arrived late to the shootaround and didn't play Friday, were back on the court against the Jazz. Daye scored 18 points, 11 in the fourth quarter.
Paul Millsap led Utah with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Will Bynum, who had played all 48 minutes against Philadelphia, put Detroit ahead for good with a driving three-point play that made it 111-108 with 1:52 remaining.
''This was fun,'' Bynum said. ''We had a lot of energy out there. I know that we shot the ball well, but I think the effort was the important part.''
Millsap then appeared to be hit in the head while losing the ball inside, and when the Pistons came up with it, the Jazz had to foul to prevent a 5-on-4 situation while their forward was slow getting up. Bynum made both free throws to push the lead back to five.
Utah cut the lead to 114-112 when Al Jefferson scored inside with 27.4 seconds remaining, but Stuckey made two free throws, then swiped a Jazz pass to help the Pistons hold on.
''We were close tonight, but we broke down a couple times defensively,'' Utah guard Raja Bell said. ''I think we all understood that they were going to be dangerous tonight. In this league it is funny that when guys have their backs up against a wall and undermanned they are dangerous.''
Seven Pistons missed at least part of Friday's shootaround, and none of them played against the 76ers. The team said Richard Hamilton, Chris Wilcox, Stuckey and Daye missed the bus, with Stuckey and Daye able to arrive late.
Wallace was unavailable Saturday night following the death of his brother earlier in the day, and Prince and McGrady didn't play either. Kuester said McGrady was sick and Prince had a back problem. Hamilton remained out with a sore groin.
Kuester started Stuckey, Daye and Wilcox against Utah.
Kuester brushed off talk of a possible mutiny after Friday's shootaround, and Daye - in his second season in the league - insisted after Saturday's game his relationship with the coach is fine.
''I have no problems with Coach - he plays me a lot,'' Daye said. ''I should have been on time, and I got punished. It was embarrassing for me to do that. There's no excuse for a second-year player to miss a bus because of a miscommunication. I don't hold any grudge for sitting out last night. I apologized to Coach and told him it was the right decision.''
Kuester said before the game he was ready to move on, and the Pistons won for the first time without Hamilton, Prince and Wallace since April 8, 2002. Detroit also put up its highest point total of the season, and beat Utah for the first time in 12 meetings.
Ben Gordon scored 17 points for the Pistons, and Charlie Villanueva added 16. Rookie Greg Monroe contributed 12 points and 16 rebounds, and Bynum scored 11 in 22:41 of action - an easy night's work compared to Friday.
The Jazz, a picture of stability for so many years, are going through their own transition following the Feb. 10 resignation of longtime coach Jerry Sloan. Utah also traded star point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey on Wednesday.
Andrei Kirilenko scored 21 points and Jefferson added 20 for the Jazz, who shot 59.5 percent from the field.
The Jazz led 95-88 in the fourth quarter before Detroit went on a 12-0 run that included five points each by Daye and Gordon.
''Defensively we are struggling out there in spurts,'' said Tyrone Corbin, Utah's interim coach. ''We are just looking for something good to happen so that we can start feeling good about ourselves.''
NOTES: All five Utah starters were in double figures. ... The Pistons led by as many as 11 in the first half and were ahead 58-53 at halftime. ... Detroit owner Karen Davidson said she had no comment on the status of the team's possible sale.