Before the season began, Hamilton said his team’s goal was to “go out and make a statement early.” So far, he is living up to it.
After scoring 37 points in a season-opening win at Philadelphia on Wednesday, Hamilton drilled a 20-foot jumper as time expired Friday to give Detroit a dramatic 82-81 victory at Boston.
“We had a few options. With 0.8 seconds (remaining), you’ve got to get something really quick,” said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, who had 16 points and eight assists. “There’s no better guy in the league to get that shot than Rip Hamilton. That’s his bread and butter.”
Hamilton led the Pistons with 26 points, and credited Billups for his team’s quick start, saying that the 2004 NBA Finals MVP “knows what it takes to win championships.”
Billups has been a valuable resource for new coach Flip Saunders as well. He spent two seasons in Minnesota under Saunders, and has helped Detroit adapt to his new-look offense.
“It helps that he understands these things,” Saunders said. “It’s like 20 percent of the problem is solved because he knows where to go.”
The Raptors lost their first two games at home, including Friday’s 102-92 setback to New Jersey.
The lone bright spot for Toronto over the first two games has been the play of rookie Jose Calderon. Against the Nets, the 24-year-old point guard had 20 points and seven assists.
Calderon, who played professionally in Spain for six years, has earned praise from his teammates for his efforts.
“He has showed a lot of poise,” said Raptors swingman Morris Peterson. “I think a lot of people aren’t looking for (Calderon) to do much, but he can give some real good minutes.”
Calderon also had an impressive season opener against Washington on Wednesday with 18 points, four rebounds and seven assists.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 4): Raptors - 3rd place (tied), 1 GB, Atlantic Division. Pistons - 1st place (tied), Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Raptors - Peterson, 18.0 ppg; Bosh, 14.0 rpg; James, 5.0 apg. Pistons - Hamilton, 30.5 ppg; Ben Wallace, 12.5 rpg; Billups, 9.0 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: April 3; Pistons, 113-103. At Toronto, Billups scored eight of his 26 points during a decisive fourth-quarter run.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Raptors - 0-0 on the road; Pistons - 1-0 at home.