With wins in seven of its last eight games, Detroit seems to be returning to championship form.
“We’ve made some strides,” Pistons center Ben Wallace said. “We want to get back to where we were last year, and we’re getting there.”
James, who signed with Milwaukee after helping Detroit win the NBA title last summer as the team’s designated defensive stopper, had a strong effort in the last game between the teams, scoring 20 points in an 89-86 victory on Jan. 21.
James is averaging 20.5 points over his last four games for Milwaukee, which is enjoying its best run of the season with wins in five of its last six contests. With Redd day-to-day due to a sprained left index finger, James may be needed to take on an even bigger role.
Redd’s consecutive games played streak ended at 212 when he didn’t see action in the Bucks’ 113-83 win over Atlanta on Saturday. Redd was hurt while going for a rebound in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s 110-107 win over Toronto.
“I don’t think it’s serious,” Bucks coach Terry Porter said.
In Saturday’s win, the Bucks put seven players in double figures, led by Desmond Mason with 23 points and James with 18, and had 17 steals as they enjoyed their most lopsided win of the season.
All of Detroit’s starters scored in double figures as the Pistons picked up their second blowout victory in three games. Detroit beat the Los Angeles Lakers 103-81 on Thursday in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals.
Tayshaun Prince scored 16 points and matched a career-high with seven assists for the Pistons, who finished with a season-high 33 assists.
“We just have so many unselfish players,” said Billups, who is averaging 20 points and 7.2 assists over his last five games. “We don’t care who scores, as long as someone does.”
STANDINGS (through Feb. 12): Bucks - 5th place, 9 1/2 GB, Central Division. Pistons - 1st place, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bucks - Redd, 22.2 ppg; Gadzuric, 7.9 rpg; Williams, 5.8 apg. Pistons - Hamilton, 20 ppg; Ben Wallace, 11.9 rpg; Billups, 6.4 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Bucks, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 21; Bucks, 89-86. At Milwaukee, Smith had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks, who overcame Prince’s 26-point effort.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bucks - 6-18 on the road; Pistons - 18-7 at home.