Wallace, back in the city where he spent most of his NBA career, tries to help the Pistons notch their season-high eighth straight victory as they face the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was a mixed reaction from the crowd last season in the first game back in Portland for Wallace after he was traded to Atlanta, where he played one game before being dealt to Detroit.
Known as much for getting into trouble on and off the court as he was for his playing ability during his eight seasons with Portland, Wallace received his fair share of boos in Detroit’s game at the Rose Garden last March 4, but there were also plenty of Wallace jerseys in the crowd. The volatile forward had 13 points and nine rebounds as the Pistons won 83-68, and the loudest jeers were saved for the Blazers because of their poor performance.
It could be more of the same in this matchup, with Detroit entering as the league’s hottest team and Portland looking like one of the worst.
The Pistons have won a season-best seven in a row and 12 of 13, while the Blazers’ only two wins in their last eight games came by a combined four points against the worst teams in the Eastern Conference—Charlotte and Atlanta.
Following Sunday’s 91-83 loss to Minnesota, one Blazer sounded as if having the fiery Wallace back on the squad would help the emotional makeup of the team.
“We’ve got to compete every night because we’ve got a fight,” Ruben Patterson said. “We’ve got to bring that anger out, man.”
Wallace, who had an NBA-record 41 technical fouls in 2000-01, has been better at controlling that anger lately. In a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Wallace was frustrated with being called for reaching in on Kobe Bryant when it appeared he cleanly slapped the ball away, but avoided trouble by trotting down the court and away from the referees. By the time he turned and came back, he looked completely calm.
He’s part of a starting frontcourt that has been outstanding during Detroit’s seven-game win streak.
Wallace has averaged 16.4 points and 9.3 rebounds during that stretch, while Tayshaun Prince has added 19.6 points per game on 56 percent shooting. Ben Wallace has been solid as always on the defensive end, averaging 11.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.7 steals.
Sunday’s 94-88 win at Golden State was just the second victory during the streak in which Detroit did not win by at least 18 points.
“Lately we’ve been stepping up when it counts,” Pistons guard Richard Hamilton said. “That’s what good teams do.”
They will need to keep doing that on this six-game road trip, with tough games coming up at Phoenix, Seattle and Sacramento.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 27): Pistons - 1st place, Central Division. Trail Blazers - 4th place, 16 GB, Northwest Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Pistons - F Rasheed Wallace, F Prince, C Ben Wallace, G Hamilton, G Chauncey Billups. Trail Blazers - F Patterson, F Zach Randolph, C Joel Przybilla, G Damon Stoudamire, G Nick Van Exel.
TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 19.8 ppg; Ben Wallace, 11.9 rpg; Billups, 6.3 apg. Trail Blazers - Randolph, 19.0 ppg and 9.7 rpg; Stoudamire, 5.6 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Trail Blazers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 18; Trail Blazers, 75-74. At Detroit, Darius Miles’ free throw with 0.5 seconds left was the difference for Portland.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pistons - 15-12 on the road; Trail Blazers - 14-12 at home.