Warriors-Pistons Preview

The Detroit Pistons haven’t had their top two returning scorers

on the floor for most of this season, and they were without two of

their more reliable threats of 2009-10 in their last game.

That hasn’t stopped the short-handed Pistons from playing their

best basketball of the season.

With the statuses of those four players unknown, Detroit will

try to record its fifth consecutive victory Saturday night when it

hosts the Golden State Warriors.

Tayshaun Prince has been out with ruptured disc in his back

since the beginning of November, and Richard Hamilton has appeared

in just one game because of an ailing right ankle.

A left ankle injury has kept Ben Gordon out for four of the past

seven games, including the last two, and Will Bynum missed Thursday

night’s 101-99 victory over visiting Denver with a pair of hurt

ankles.

In place of his injured teammates, Rodney Stuckey has stepped in

to average 24.0 points during the Pistons’ four consecutive

victories, scoring at least 25 in the past three.

Charlie Villanueva led the team with 27 points against the

Northwest Division-leading Nuggets on Thursday.

“We had confidence,” Villanueva told the team’s official Web

site. “We’ve been battling all year round (short-handed), so guys

in here believed that we could win this game.”

Despite their problems staying healthy, the Pistons (10-12) have

improbably boosted their scoring average to 98.5 during their win

streak after averaging 90.6 while losing eight of nine from Nov.

15-Dec. 2. They also topped 100 points for the fourth time this

season Thursday.

“I’m just glad that we’re weathering some of these storms,” said

coach John Kuester, whose team has also won four straight at The

Palace of Auburn Hills. “I guess that’s the best way of saying

it.”

Kuester’s team will try to continue its offensive surge by

taking advantage of the NBA’s worst defense.

The Warriors have allowed 111.8 points per game this season, but

they’ve held back-to-back opponents to fewer than 100 points for

the first time this season. However, those teams – New Jersey and

Chicago – are two of the league’s lowest-scoring clubs.

One of the league’s best offenses with 107.8 points per game,

Golden State (7-15) was also held to fewer than 100 points for the

sixth time this season in Friday night’s 96-91 overtime loss to the

Bulls – its fifth defeat in six games.

“We just made some mental mistakes late in the end and didn’t

execute well and that was the difference,” guard Corey Maggette

said. “You’ve got to execute down the stretch on the road.”

The Warriors could struggle again against the Pistons, one of

the league’s best defenses (95.1 ppg). They’ve averaged 96.0 points

on 40.6 percent shooting while losing their last four against

Detroit.

Like the Pistons, the Warriors have been short-handed for much

of this season. Only eight players were active for the last two

games, and coach Don Nelson is home in California recovering from

pneumonia with Keith Smart leading the team in his place.

Monta Ellis tried to carry the Warriors by averaging 31.0 points

over a nine-game stretch, but he’s fallen off that pace in the past

two with 18 and 27 points, respectively.

Detroit has won 21 of 28 over Golden State since 1995-96 and 13

of 14 at home with its only loss coming March 5, 2007.