Some young reserves got extended playing time as the Detroit Pistons cruised to another win on Friday.
They could get another chance to show what they can do as the Pistons go for their eighth straight victory on Sunday when they host the struggling Charlotte Bobcats.
Chauncey Billups scored 17 points in the first quarter Friday to help Detroit (36-13) build a nine-point lead over Portland in the period. The Pistons increased their lead to 27 in the second, so Billups went on to play a season-low 24 minutes in the 91-82 victory.
“You know me - if this had been a tight game, I would have stayed in there and stayed aggressive,” said Billups, who didn’t score in the final three periods. “But the kids were playing so well that it was more fun to sit on the bench and cheer for them.”
The big lead allowed Detroit’s second unit to log big minutes.
Amir Johnson had a season-high 10 points in a season-high 26 minutes. Rookie guard Arron Afflalo had four points, two rebounds and two assists in a season high-tying 26 minutes. Rookie point guard Rodney Stuckey had a season-best 13 points and four assists without a turnover in 24 minutes - one shy of his season high.
“When I push the ball, I’m going to get some easy shots,” Stuckey said. “That’s what I do.”
Johnson, Afflalo and Stuckey are each 22 years old or younger, and the trio came into this season with a combined 11 games of NBA experience.
“We’re just learning how to play with each other,” Stuckey said. “We’re going to be doing this together for a lot of years.”
Friday’s win was the seventh straight for Detroit, which will put the streak on the line against a Charlotte team that has dropped its last five contests— all by double digits.
The Bobcats (18-32) have given up 114.2 points per game during their skid, which continued Friday with a 104-90 loss to New Jersey.
“The key to playing well in this league is not to get too high and not to get too low,” said Earl Boykins, who had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting in his fourth game with Charlotte after signing as a free agent last week.
“After losses, you’re down for the night, but you have to bounce back. We have to learn from this game, try not to do the same things against Detroit and go out there and play a better game.”
One encouraging aspect of Friday’s loss was the return of Charlotte’s leading scorer, Gerald Wallace, who had 21 points, two steals and three blocked shots in his first game after missing two with a strained right foot.
Wallace, averaging a career-best 21.2 points, has scored at least 20 in six straight games, excluding the game in which he was injured. However, he’s averaged 11.3 points in 12 career starts against the Pistons.
Wallace had 26 points in the Bobcats’ first meeting with Detroit on Jan. 12, but the Pistons won 103-100 in overtime, thanks in part to a controversial basket interference call against Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor with 1.5 seconds left in the extra period. The call wiped out the Bobcats’ go-ahead basket.
“It’s very disappointing for me to have our guys be so (short-handed) and fight so hard to win a game and have it taken away by a whistle,” Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said after that game.
The Pistons have won nine of 13 all-time meetings with the Bobcats, including five of six at The Palace of Auburn Hills.