Weekend Sweep

Pistons dump Bucks as Rip scores 15 off the bench

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– The Pistons’ bench added 37 points to Detroit’s cause with Rip Hamilton leading the way with 15 points, shooting 7-of-14 from the field. Hamilton returned to game-day action for the first time since Jan. 10 when the Pistons took on the Bulls in Chicago. “He worked out for an hour before the game today not knowing he was going to play,” said Tayshaun Prince on Hamilton. “Once the opportunity called he was ready.” With growing concern surrounding the Rip-Kuester relationship, Saturday’s resurgence of the Pistons’ scoring star shed some light that there may be efforts to mend a truly important relationship.

BLUE COLLAR – Tracy McGrady continues to show his strengths in the leadership role of starting point guard. He willingly shares the ball when needed and takes his own shots when he can. McGrady led the team with 20 points shooting 7-of-14 from the field in 30 minutes of play. “Thought (Tracy McGrady) did a great job of pace of the game, keeping it comfortable,” said Kuester. No matter who steps in to play the two, look to McGrady to continue running the point like a true leader and veteran.

RED FLAG – Still no Rodney Stuckey for the Pistons. Stuckey dressed in street clothes for Saturday’s game in Milwaukee and missed his fifth straight game due to a right shoulder contusion. He is now listed as day-to-day. With Stuckey out, Kuester made the decision to bring Hamilton in. “We have to get healthy first, that’s the most important thing - getting healthy,” Kuester said when asked about Hamilton’s future role. Detroit is missing out on Stuckey’s 15.3 points per game average while he is sidelined but Ben Gordon and now Hamilton stepped up to fill the void, adding a combined 27 points at the shooting guard position.

Rip Hamilton came off the bench for the first time since Jan. 10 and Tracy McGrady scored 20 points to help the Pistons to an 89-78 victory over the Bucks on Saturday night in Milwaukee.

Hamilton’s DNP status for 13 consecutive games created questions about his relationship with the organization, but his contributions to Saturday’s game indicate Hamilton could still provide a spark as the Pistons plow through a key portion of the schedule in an attempt to resuscitate their playoff chances.

“I didn’t know I was going to play tonight,” he said. “You know, it was a surprise to me. But they put me out there, so like I always say, be a pro about it and try to perform.”

“The most important thing was just to come out and have fun. We needed a victory. The guys on the team wanted me out there, so the thing I try to do is just be aggressive and play my game.”

With Rodney Stuckey sidelined with a shoulder injury, the addition of Hamilton proved critical. He scored 15 points, 11 in a 10-minute stint of the first half, shooting 7 of 14 in 20 minutes.

“Rip did a nice job,” John Kuester said. “We were down a player with Stuckey and he came in and did a nice job, made some shots and I thought he played hard.”

“I’ll play, regardless of who’s on that sideline - nobody dictates how I play. I (don’t have) a problem with nobody,” Hamilton said. “My thing was just to come out here and play and I did that.”

And play he did, as the playoff chase continued on the road after the Pistons put an end to their four-game losing skid with a win over the Nets on Friday night. Detroit went into Saturday’s game in Milwaukee just two games behind the Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings and came out a little stronger in the race to the postseason.

“Anytime you win on the road it’s a great win,” Kuester said. “Milwaukee always plays us tough. They’re a good team, well coached. I thought our guys came out and did a great job right from the beginning.”

The Pistons shot 59.5 percent from the field in the first half with a notable buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Austin Daye at the end of the first quarter to give the Pistons a four-point lead. The Pistons’ bench outscored the Bucks 37-27, which is a victory in itself especially with the playoff hopes looming near.

After a dismal performance in the fourth quarter at home to Charlotte on Wednesday, the Pistons redeemed themselves by going on a 12-2 run early in the fourth in Milwaukee to put the Bucks out of reach in the end.

With a two-game win streak the Pistons return home to Detroit before playing the Spurs on Tuesday. A little bit of rest and it’s off to face the west and continue to climb the ladder in the standings before the All-Star break.