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Checkmate: Pistons 101, Kings 89

There was a lot of rumbling after the trade deadline when Joe Dumars failed to move either of his aging (and increasingly redundant) veterans, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton. After all, younger and potentially better options were waiting in the wings, so why not dump the old vets to the first contender with an expiring contract and draft picks?

Perhaps it's dumb luck, or perhaps it really was part of some master plan, but the silver lining to Dumars' decision to sit on his hands is that both Hamilton and Prince have done their best to put their dismal first halves of the season behind them while simultaneously boosting their trade value for this summer.

The Pistons were hotter than they've been all season on Tuesday against the Kings, stretching their lead to as many as 30 points before ultimately winning 101-89 -- and Hamilton and Prince were huge reasons why.

Hamilton finished the game with a game-high 30 points on 60% shooting (12-20 FG ) in 33 minutes -- in his last four, he's averaged 30.5 on 54% shooting. Prince, meanwhile, set the tone early by scoring Detroit's first six points, finishing with 22 on 64% shooting (11-17 FG) to go with four assists, four rebounds and a block.

I'm not exactly thrilled with Prince's workload -- he played 36 minutes on Tuesday after playing 38, 42 and 44 in his previous three -- but it's possible he's being given a chance to prove that the back injury that plagued him in the playoffs last year and early this season is not the death sentence for his career that many (myself included) feared.

If he can keep it up for a few more weeks and finish the season without any more lengthy stints on the trainer's table, he'll be a pretty decent chip for Dumars to use this summer in a trade, especially considering he'll be entering the final year of his contract.

As for the rest of Tuesday's game, Ben Gordon was efficient but foul-prone: he finished with 11 points (5-7 FG) and six fouls in 22 minutes. In the battle of brawny point guards, Rodney Stuckey finished with 13 points, eight boards and seven assists while future Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans had 28 points (including 12 in the fourth) and a career-high 13 assists.

The Pistons reached a new high for the season by shooting 58% on the night; the Kings, meanwhile, shot 44%. Carl Landry finished with 18 points, joining Evans as the only guys wearing purple to crack double digits, but he scored over half of his points in the fourth quarter when the game was all but officially decided.

You'd certainly like to see the Pistons maintain their intensity for four consecutive quarters for once -- the Kings outscored Detroit 31-18 in the final frame -- but Tuesday was one of the rare games this season where "too little, too late" applied to the other team.

As I mentioned the other night, if the Pistons win just one of their next three games (@LAC, @DEN, @GSW), they'll guarantee their first winning month since Dec. 2008. If the vets keep it up, it just might happen.

Final - 2.23.2010 1 2 3 4 Total
Detroit Pistons 29 25 29 18 101
Sacramento Kings 26 16 16 31 89

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