AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 23 (Ticker) --
The Detroit Pistons weren't
about to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks. But they may have lost
Hamilton suffered a left ankle injury in the fourth quarter,
when the Pistons regrouped and pulled away for a 92-74 victory
over the Bucks in the opener of their Eastern Conference
NBA TV highlights from |
scored 22 points and Ben Wallace
rebounds for the top-seeded Pistons, who smothered Bucks
All-Star guard Michael Redd
and wasted no time asserting
themselves in what appears to be a mismatch.
The Pistons won the title in 2004 and were five minutes away
from repeating last year. One of the reasons for their success
has been their ability to avoid a major injury. In winning a
franchise-record 64 games this season, they set a league mark by
using the same starting lineup for the first 73 games.
But in the fourth quarter, Hamilton stepped on Bucks forward
's foot and twisted his left ankle. Pistons coach
called a timeout seconds later, but Hamilton
stayed in the game.
At that point, Milwaukee had used a 19-4 surge capped by
consecutive 3-pointers from Charlie Bell
to close to 68-64 with
9 1/2 minutes to go. Detroit responded with 11 straight points
that included a pull-up jumper by Hamilton to re-establish
control for good.
"It seemed like when they wanted to turn up their defensive
pressure, they did," Bucks coach Terry Stotts
challenged a lot of our shots, but during that stretch on the
offensive end, we had three or four opportunities that didn't
go, and they ran the other way with it. The lead went from four
to 12 pretty quickly."
Hamilton began limping noticeably and sat down for good at the
5:36 mark. He scored 21 points and was the primary defender on
Redd, who was limited to 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
"It's sore," Hamilton said after limping from the training room
more than an hour after the game ended. "But that's what we have
Arnie (strength coach Arnie Kander) for. We'll see how it
"I mentioned to Tay (Tayshaun Prince
) that when we first saw the
schedule we didn't like that it was all spread out. Now I'm
glad it is a couple of days between games."
It is hard to minimize Hamilton's effect on the Pistons. The
All-Star shooting guard disrupts defenses by scooting around
screens to create open shots for himself and his teammates. In
66 career playoff games, he has scored at least 20 points 51
Hamilton also is earning respect as a defender, as his work on
"I sacrificed my offense," said Hamilton, who made just 5-of-18
shots. "I told myself that I didn't care if I missed every
shot, as long as (Redd) missed every one, too. I just tried to
make it tough on him every time he got the ball. We know he's a
Saunders said that containing Redd, who averaged 30 points in
the four regular-season games against Detroit, was a priority.
"He's one of the most explosive scorers in our league and I
thought we did a pretty good job on him team-wise," Saunders
said. "Rip did a good job of understanding where help might be.
He tried to send him to as much help as he could and he
contested most of his shots."
"I knew it was going to happen," Redd said. "They did a great
job having two or three guys around me all night. It was very
difficult to get a shot off. They were just concentrating on
shutting me down. We have to make adjustments. It's totally
different than the regular season."
Prince scored 15 points and Chauncey Billups
added 14 for the
Pistons, who shot 34 free throws to 10 for the Bucks.
"It's hard to win when they shoot that many more free throws,"
Stotts said. "All season, the Pistons have shot a lot of free
throws. That's one of their strengths."
Bell scored 13 points, Jamaal Magloire
added 11 and Bogut 10 for
Milwaukee, which did not have a scorer in double figures until
the fourth quarter.
The Bucks, who were eliminated by the Pistons in five games in
their last postseason appearance in 2004, will try again here
"I thought we played well in stretches," Stotts said. "We've
played this team well before. The one thing we have to do is
Milwaukee bolted to a surprising 9-2 lead but went scoreless in
the last 3:43 of the first half, falling into a 43-37 hole as
Rasheed Wallace scored 17 points. Prince and Billups drained
3-pointers to help build the lead to 64-45 before the Bucks