MILWAUKEE, March 16 (Ticker) -- Jerry Stackhouse
, Jon Barry
and the rest of the Detroit Pistons showed the Milwaukee Bucks they are ready for the stretch run.
Stackhouse scored 25 points and Barry made several big baskets in the second half as the Pistons rallied for a pivotal 102-94 victory over the Bucks, taking over the Central Division lead.
"To bounce back and get this win shows that we are in it for the long haul," Pistons forward Clifford Robinson said.
"Tonight was disappointing," Bucks guard Sam Cassell said. "It's a game we had circled on our schedule. It's tough."
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Chucky Atkins and the Pistons drove by the Bucks and into first place in the Central.
The teams came in with identical 36-27 records, but the defending division champion Bucks held the tiebreaker edge over the upstart Pistons after winning the first two meetings. The game had plenty of playoff implications and a postseason atmosphere.
And it was the Pistons who played like the playoff-tested team.
They erased a 65-56 deficit midway through the third quarter, forging a 74-74 tie entering the final period on Barry's 3-pointer at the horn.
"The play where Stackhouse found Jon Barry, who was able to hit a three at the end of the quarter, got us juiced," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said.
Detroit trailed just briefly in the fourth quarter before Stackhouse made a pair of early 3-pointers. Barry added two clutch baskets in the closing minutes as the Pistons pulled away and improved to a league-best 18-0 when reaching triple figures.
Chucky Atkins scored 19 points and Corliss Williamson added 17 for Detroit, which had lost three of its last four games. This was the first of a crucial five-game road trip for the Pistons.
"I think this can give us a lot of confidence heading into the trip," Stackhouse said.
Ray Allen scored 20 points and Anthony Mason added 16 and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost four of their last six games. Milwaukee embarks on a three-game road swing against Eastern Conference teams.
"We have to take care of business on this trip," Cassell said. "I'm looking forward to the trip. We'll find out what we are made of on this coming week."
The Pistons and Bucks meet once more in Detroit on April 17, the final day of the season.
"They had to beat us tonight and they have to beat us in Detroit for tiebreaker reasons," Bucks coach George Karl said. "Who knows if it will come down to that or not?"
Stackhouse's second 3-pointer of the final period capped a 10-2 burst and gave the Pistons an 84-78 lead with 8:33 to go. Allen followed with a three-point play, but the Bucks got no closer.
After a reverse dunk by Darvin Ham pulled Milwaukee within 89-85 with 5:20 left, the Bucks went scoreless for more than three minutes. Williamson made two free throws, Damon Jones made one and Barry found a cutting Stackhouse for a layup.
With the shot clock winding down and Barry trapped along the left baseline, he threw up a shot that arched over the backboard and splashed through for a 96-85 lead with 2:18 remaining. As he ran downcourt, he talked some trash to the Bucks' bench.
"I said, `Whoa, I can't believe that went in,'" joked Barry, who hit another jumper 58 seconds later for a 100-87 advantage.
"We talked before the game how we wanted this," Stackhouse said. "I think this was the biggest win of the season for us."
Robinson had 12 points and nine rebounds and Ben Wallace swept 16 boards for the Pistons, who shot 49 percent (39-of-79) from the field.
Glenn Robinson scored 16 points and Cassell added 15 for the Bucks, who shot 46 percent (41-of-90) but made just 3-of-19 3-pointers.
Play was chippy in the first quarter as four technical fouls were called, three on the Bucks. Milwaukee grabbed a 27-24 lead despite 13 points by Stackhouse.
The Bucks widened a two-point hafltime edge to 65-56 on a jumper by Cassell with 6:45 left in the third quarter before the Pistons rallied.