Thanks to a dominant third quarter, the Pistons coasted to a 98-89 victory over the Sixers last night. Rasheed Wallace was replaced in the starting lineup for Jason Maxiell last night, but that wasn't the only storyline: Rip Hamilton also scored his 10,000th career point, Tayshaun Prince put his money where his mouth is with a career-high 33 points and the Pistons as a team racked up 32 assists. For now, I'm going to focus on the latter three storylines:
10,000 for Rip. Is this a milestone or just a nice round number? I'm guessing the latter. Hell, Rip didn't even know that he was close -- he admitted after the game that he was confused why people were congratulating him.
But, even if he has to enjoy it in hindsight, it is kind of cool that he did it in front of his hometown fans -- by the looks of all the empty seats at the Wachovia Center, I'm guessing anyone that wanted to make the hour trip from Coatesville to Philly didn't have a hard time getting in.
Rip scored 22 points on the night on 11-16 shooting and also dished out seven assists with five boards. He only got to the free throw line once, which is unusual for him this year, but his jumper was falling all night long. A lot of players have been guilty of not stepping up to make up for Chauncey's absence, but not Rip.
Tayshaun finally tops 31. Tay matched his previous career high several times in his career, but he finally topped it Tuesday with a driving dunk late in the fourth quarter. When he wasn't driving the lane, he was hitting long-distance bombs -- he shot 5-6 from beyond the arc.
Tay put together exactly the type of game you'd like to see from a guy who just called out his team's effort a couple of days prior. By all accounts he's usually a relatively quiet player on and off the court, but he appears to be growing into his captain's role given his statements on Monday followed by an aggressive performance on Tuesday. Here's to hoping this continues.
The point guards (yes, that includes Flip Murray) looked good. We've complained about Murray to the point that I've started to feel guilty, so we owe it to him to give credit when it's due: he flat-out looked like a genuine point guard last night. He struggled with his shot (2-6 from the field) but still scored 12 by getting to the line (8-9). He also dished out a career-high 12 assists, and while he did have four turnovers, a couple of those came late when the game was already in hand.
Will Blalock also played well with five points and four assists (including a sweet no-look, behind-the-back dish for a Sheed dunk on a fast break) with no turnovers in 18 minutes. He finally looks completely comfortable on the court, showing no hesitation to take a shot when one appears (including 1-2 from three-point range). As a team, the Pistons finished with 32 assists on 40 field goals -- that's outstanding. The Pistons shot 56.3% from the field, and I'm convinced that the fluid ball movement was a big reason why. I'm still extremely eager to get Chauncey Billups back, but -- especially given the weak schedule over the next three games -- I think the Pistons will be fine if he takes his time.
As for the bench, Carlos Delfino shot just 1-6 (four points) but still finished with six boards in 18 minutes. For a wing player, he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time for rebounds. He's averaged 6.4 (in 19.4 minutes) in his last five -- that's 15.8 per 48 minutes. He's been lucky with a small sample, but he's been a big reason why the Pistons have consistently won the battle of the boards lately. (They didn't last night 34-39, but there just aren't quite as many rebounds to go after when you shoot better than 56% from the field.)
Pistons 98, 76ers 89 box score [NBA.com]