What a difference a Ben Wallace can make.
Ben Wallace, who was starting for the injured Kwame Brown after missing last game (coach's decision), was all over the place, making things happen just as one would have expected from the 2004 Ben Wallace.
In just over 33 minutes, he corralled 14 rebounds, had four steals, and two blocks. But his efforts go far beyond the pretty line in the box score. In the first half, he was clearly the most active Piston on defense, contesting shots nearly every possession, forcing bad passes, and taking charges. We can't give all the credit to Big Ben, but we can give him most of it, and he's a very big reason why the Pistons won and were able to hold their opponent to 29 less points than they allowed last game.
Despite Wallace's stifling defense, the Pistons really didn't capitalize and flip the switch on offense until late in the third quarter when they trailed by as many as 12 points. At that point, Bynum and Gordon took control combining for 12 points in the final four minutes of the third to help the Pistons pull within one going into the fourth.
The Pistons then carried that momentum into the final quarter, jumping out to as large as an eight point lead. Detroit led in the fourth for all, but a minute thirty seven of action and most importantly, held on as the final buzzer sounded.
As we'll see on most nights, the offense was carried by the four guards. Ben Gordon finished with 19 points on 7-12 shooting (3-3 from downtown). I swear every shot he made ripped the nets and elicited that sweet, sweet string music that George Blaha often speaks of. Stuckey came on strong in the second half and finished with 16 points and six assists. Bynum had 13 points and four assists. Hamilton contributed 12 points and thieved his way to five steals.
It wasn't all gravy for the Pistons, as they still had their perimeter problems on defense and saw a less than desirable showing from Charlie Villanueva.
Chuck had eight points (3-8 shooting) and six rebounds in 25 minutes. He also had three pretty bad turnovers and was negative-19 when on the floor. Normally, I don't consider that stat an indication of poor individual play, especially since Ben Wallace's was the second worst at negative-14, but that's exactly what it is for Charlie tonight. He was by far the worst Piston on the floor and looked dazed on defense. It probably wasn't exactly the return to Milwaukee CV31 was hoping for and it's not the type of effort us Pistons fans are hoping for during the regular season. To be fair, he just came back from an injury and it could take some time for him to get acclimated.
Detroit also struggled with their perimeter defense. The Bucks shot 40% from beyond the arc, but too many times a Milwaukee player was given an open look from downtown. Milwaukee's 27 three point tries should be a pretty clear sign of that.
Overall, tonight's game was a good way to end the preseason. Going into the regular season with the confidence of a win will hopefully carry over when they open the season against three underwhelming teams, including these same Bucks, before playing the Magic (8-0 preseason). It's going to be an exciting season, one that I'm eager to get rolling. Next Wednesday can't come soon enough.
Video highlights after the jump, then leave your thoughts in the comments.