Team effort leads Pistons past Bucks 103-89
Auburn Hills, Mich. -- On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the Pistons gave thanks for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks were playing without stalwart center Andrew Bogut, who has a sore back, and the Pistons had their most complete game of the season, leading from wire to wire in a 103-89 victory.
The Pistons (6-10) moved out of last place in the Central Division ahead of the Bucks (5-10), who have lost five in a row.
It certainly was a nice way to bounce back from the 105-84 drubbing they took in Memphis Wednesday night, but you can't expect it to last.
"You sort of enjoy these kind of games because we're not going to have a lot of them," coach John Kuester said. "And the only reason I say we're not going to have a lot of them is because we're usually in a nail-biter and guys have to make plays at the end of the game. But I thought we did a great job of doing so many things well (Friday)."
Aside from getting off to a fast start in the first quarter, in which they outscored the Bucks 29-18, the Pistons also got everyone involved early.
Every starter except Ben Wallace had at least six points in the first and Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey each had three assists. Hamilton finished with a season-high nine assists and was one of seven players in double figures in scoring with 15. Stuckey led the team with 18 points.
"I just thought that we had a nice little flow," Hamilton said. "I thought that we really moved the ball. Coach was calling my plays so I just tried to make plays. Max did an excellent job of when I came off screens of diving to the basket. I tried to get him the ball and get him going. It was just a great team effort."
It was an important outing not just for the Pistons against an undermanned team, but for Hamilton, who was ejected against Memphis three games after getting tossed from the Lakers game.
"I just told myself it's Thanksgiving, I got a lot of family in town, they want to see me play so I gotta do my job just to stay on the floor," Hamilton said.
The Pistons have talked a lot this season about sharing the ball and Friday night they finally did it. They had a season-high 28 assists on 41 field goals.
"Guys did a great job -- 28 assists on 41 field goals, shooting 56 percent against one of the best defensive teams in the league," Kuester said. "They've done a great job of holding teams under 42 percent, I believe, in field goal percentage.
"Looking to get the ball from one side to the other and making them defend and especially, you can see the way we're making cuts and the pace of our cuts are so important for us because again, we've got a nice basketball team but we have to be on all cylinders for us to be effective."
Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, who led all scorers with 25 points, admitted that the Pistons' ball movement wore the Bucks out.
"With John (Salmons) trying to chase Rip off of screens and I was trying to get Stuckey off the post, when you're trying to contain everybody it can be a little tiring, especially when you got to go down there and score also," Jennings said. "They try to run off screens. It just seems like we really didn't want it. We didn't bring a lot of energy to the game."
That energy is something the Pistons showed from the start and is what they've been searching for seemingly all season.
"No question about it, the energy was great," Kuester said. "Not only offensively, but the energy we started with from the beginning of the game, I really was very pleased with. This is a very important win for us."
Let's keep everything in perspective here. Although the Bucks are leading the league in opponents' points against and the Pistons were just the second team to score more than 100 against them in regulation, the Bucks are a completely different team without Bogut.
"He means so much to their team," Hamilton said. "He's probably their No. 1 option on the team so without him out there, we had to take advantage of it and I thought we did."
It'll be tougher to continue that against some of the better teams the Pistons will be facing soon, starting with the New York Knicks on Sunday, then on the road against Orlando and Miami.
Yet maybe the Pistons can bottle some of what they did against the Bucks.
"This was probably one of our funnest games of the season," Hamilton said. "I think everybody was into it, everybody shared the ball, everybody was making the extra pass and things like that. When we do that, the game is fun for everybody."
Nov. 26, 2010