Hamilton, Pistons Rip 76ers in Opener
Detroit 108, Philadelphia 88
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Nov. 2 (Ticker) -- Whoever coaches the Detroit Pistons is smart enough to let Richard Hamilton run foes ragged.
Hamilton scored 37 points as he wore down a series of defenders and lifted the Pistons to an easy 108-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Saunders coached the Minnesota Timberwolves for nine-plus seasons before being fired midway through last season. He has a tall order in replacing Larry Brown, who guided Detroit to a championship and a return to the NBA Finals in two years as coach.
Saunders enjoyed his first night as a host at The Palace of Auburn Hills, a raucous arena that sells out on a regular basis.
"There is enthusiasm all over the place, and it gives you a great atmosphere," he said. "It's close to a college atmosphere, and that gives you a home-court advantage, because the players love to play in front of that."
Regarded as an offensive expert, Saunders doesn't need much smarts to determine that the Pistons are effective when running plays for Hamilton, who in a recent survey of general managers was voted as the NBA's best player without the ball.
"It's fun playing in this offense," said Hamilton, who made 16-of-24 shots. "We wanted to win this one for Flip because he's done such a great job of putting us in positions to make plays."
"He was feeling it, so we got him the ball," Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. "He's a smart veteran, and if he hadn't been making the shots, he would have passed."
"They knew he had the hot hand and they played to it," Salmons said. "That's what's so good about that team. They know how to share the ball." A tip-in by Hamilton gave Detroit a 14-4 lead less than six minutes into the contest. The Pistons led by at least six points thereafter and by double digits for the final 14-plus minutes.
Tayshaun Prince scored 16 points and Chauncey Billups added 12 and 10 assists for the Pistons, who won rather easily without a big game from their big men. Saunders emptied his bench and all 12 players scored, including Darko Milicic.
"We had 30 assists, and that shows you are playing team basketball," Saunders said. "We share the ball."
The Pistons displayed the type of teamwork and cohesion the 76ers are desperately trying to develop between stars Allen Iverson and Chris Webber. However, Philadelphia had just 11 assists, six by Iverson.
"They had 30 assists and we had 11, and that's not going to work," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "They look like a veteran team when they move the ball, and we look like a team that has to get better."
Billups scored six points in an 11-4 spurt that closed the third quarter and gave Detroit a 76-60 lead. Hamilton's jumper pushed the advantage to 84-65 with 9:08 to go.
"We aren't playing defense and we aren't rebounding the basketball," Iverson said. "This has gotten off to a bad start, but we have to find a way to turn it around."
Iverson scored 31 points and Webber added 16 and nine rebounds
for the Sixers, who were eliminated in five games by the Pistons
in the first round of last year's playoffs. Including that
series, they have lost eight of the last 10 meetings.