AUBURN HILLS, Mich.(AP) For the last several years, the Detroit Pistons have spent early April trying to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
This year, they had a smaller goal on their minds.
On Friday, the Pistons got 46 points from their bench and clinched a playoff spot with a 100-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
"We're getting better and better every game,'' said reserve guard Will Bynum, who led the Pistons with 20 points. "They said that whichever team is playing the best going into the playoffs is pretty dangerous. Hopefully, we can be that team.''
Detroit (39-40) will be in the postseason for the eighth straight year, but still needs two wins in its final three games to finish with a .500 record.
"We've been through some rough times and struggled this year,'' said first-year coach Michael Curry. "We need to take some of the things we've learned and use them in the playoffs. We're still going to be in there - just not with the kind of seed we're used to having.''
New Jersey (32-47) lost for the eighth time in 10 games as coach Lawrence Frank went with a young lineup for much of the game. Rookie Ryan Anderson led the Nets with 20 points, one short of his career high, and fellow first-year players Chris Douglas-Roberts and Brook Lopez had 16 each.
"I wanted to put some guys in, guys in different positions so they could feel what it is like,'' Frank said. "So instead of Vince (Carter), we went to Chris and Brook in the fourth quarter, and I thought Ryan gave us a big life from the middle of the third quarter on.''
The Pistons never trailed, and were up by as many as 19 in the first half. Detroit outshot the Nets 61 to 36 percent and outrebounded them 24-13 to take a 54-38 lead into intermission.
"The second unit really stepped it up,'' said Arron Afflalo. "Will was great, but we were all getting stops and that's how we built up the lead.''
Anderson's 3-pointer pulled the Nets to 76-68 in the final minute of the third period, but Tayshaun Prince's dunk moved the margin back to 10 at quarter's end.
New Jersey got to 96-91 in the final minute, but Richard Hamilton clinched the game with a 3-pointer.
"There was a lack of energy in the first half, but we kept playing tough,'' Lopez said. "Ryan kept us in the game, and CDR made some big plays late that gave us a shot.''
Nets All-Star point guard Devin Harris left the game in the third quarter with a sore left shoulder and did not return.
He missed all five shot attempts and finished with one point, his lowest output since scoring a single point for the Mavericks against Atlanta on Feb. 26. 2007.
"We lost to them last week, but tonight we did a much better job against Harris and Carter,'' Curry said. "We were good at helping on both of them with our bigs.''
Notes: For much of the fourth quarter, with the game still in the balance, six of the 10 players on the floor were either in their first or second NBA seasons. ... Kwame Brown was called for a technical foul with 2:50 left, but Douglas-Roberts missed the free throw.