Before the ball was even tipped, I was nervous about Wednesday's game. The Pistons were playing their fourth game in five nights, and they'd be winning so easily I figured either fatigue or over-confidence would do them in. For the first 12 minutes, it looked like I was right: the Pistons shot just 30% (and didn't grab a single offensive rebound) in the opening quarter while stumbling to a 26-16 deficit.
Fortunately, that's when things started to look up: the Pistons clawed their way back into the game the very next quarter and even managed to enter the break with a 44-42 lead thanks to a pair of free-throws by Chauncey Billups just seconds before halftime. It was Detroit's first lead of the game, and they never gave it up. From the beginning of the second to the end of the fourth, the Pistons outscored the Hornets 75-50, holding New Orleans under 20 points over each of the last three quarters before winning 91-76.
Because the Pistons had been blowing out opponents the last four games, the starters were actually quite rested. In the previous four games, not one player saw more than 34 minutes in a game, but on Wednesday, every single starter logged at least 35. Some of the guys never looked comfortable shooting the ball all night (Tayshaun Prince finished 3-10 from the field, Chauncey Billups finished 4-16), but it seemed like when Detroit needed a big shot to keep the game from getting out of hand early or to keep the Hornets at bay late, they got it.
Rip Hamilton finished with a game-high 21 points, while Billups finished with 18 (thanks to going 9-9 at the stripe). Rasheed Wallace tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards, while Jason Maxiell scored eight with six boards and two blocks in 21 minutes. For the first time in a while, Max was dealing with foul trouble (he finished with five) otherwise I suspect he would have played more.
Interestingly enough, Flip Murray and Nazr Mohammed (edit: I missed Nazr's four minutes) never left the bench. Even late in the game as the Pistons were pulling away, Flip Saunders left all of the starters in for the final six minutes of the fourth. I don't know if there was any particular reason for his doing so, but I suspect watching the bench give up 15 points in the fourth the night before had something to do with it.
The Chris Paul Experience never really materialized -- he finished with a modest 14 points and seven assists, shooting just 4-14 from the field. But Tyson Chandler turned in an impressive performance, scoring 17 and grabbing 22 boards in 44 minutes. I think Chandler is a solid, young player, but perhaps more than most his offensive game is a function of playing next to a great point guard, so Paul's influence was still felt.
The Pistons host the Bulls on Friday. Despite the fact Chicago is struggling, they always, always play tough against Detroit (at least in the regular season) and have actually won three of four. It should be a good one.