They hope to have Hamilton back for their home opener against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday as they try to start 3-0 for the second time in three years.
Detroit, which was 26-15 at the Palace of Auburn Hills last year after finishing with the league’s best home record (37-4) the previous season, opens the year by playing eight of its first 10 games on the road.
The Pistons’ first road trip was a major success. They beat the Miami Heat 91-80 on Thursday and blew out the Orlando Magic on Friday, 116-92. Detroit shot 58.9 percent from the field against the Magic and had six players score in double figures.
“It was a good one for us,” said Chauncey Billups, who had 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists. “We came into the game focused on what we had to do. We had a great game plan and just executed. Everyone executed and came up big.”
Hamilton, who averaged a team-high 19.8 points per game last season, has missed both of the Pistons’ first two games because of personal reasons. Arron Afflalo, Detroit’s top pick in June, started both games in his place, and had eight points on Friday.
The rookie is looking forward to Hamilton’s return, although his playing time will likely get reduced.
“When Rip gets back it will add even more energy to the team,” Afflalo said. “It is going to be good for us.”
While the Pistons wait for Hamilton to come back, they’ve received solid production from their bench to make up for his absence. On Friday, their reserves outscored Orlando’s 45-17, led by 19 points from Flip Murray.
“Our bench is going to be a really, really huge thing for us,” said Billups. “They are coming in and playing very aggressive. They are hungry—you could just look and see it.”
The Pistons won two of three against the Hawks last season, including both games in Detroit. Atlanta has lost five straight at the Palace and 12 of its last 14 trips there since the 2000-01 season.
The Hawks, who open the season by facing four of last year’s playoff teams, began it with a 101-94 home victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. It was the first time the struggling Hawks have opened with a win since the 1998-99 season—also the last time they made the playoffs.
Joe Johnson had 28 points and seven rebounds while Josh Smith added 18 points and 11 boards. After Atlanta blew a 16-point lead, the Hawks outscored Dallas 11-4 in the final three minutes for the win.
“We played well down the stretch,” Johnson said. “They missed a few shots, we were able to secure the ball, come down and create offense. … We’re going to keep playing hard, doing whatever it takes to get wins.”
“I thought tonight our guys came out very hungry and aggressive from a defensive standpoint,” coach Mike Woodson said. “It seemed like everything we worked on in camp, it kind of rolled over to our game tonight. It was nice to see.”