AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Richard Hamilton’s postseason is going like his past five in a lot of ways, scoring 20 points on most nights and helping the Detroit Pistons reach the Eastern Conference finals.
In one major way, it’s unlike any other.
Deuce has done it.
Hamilton became a father last Halloween and Richard Hamilton II, or Deuce as he’s known, has treated the All-Star shooting guard to a new way of life.
“It’s the best. It puts everything in perspective,” Hamilton said Sunday. “Stuff that you used to think was important, isn’t important when you have a little man. It slows you down a whole lot. You grow up real fast. You put on your seat belt every time you get in the car. You’re always home. You don’t hang out as much.
“You just do everything possible to try to raise your child right.”
Hamilton, who has 2,348 career points in the playoffs, broke Isiah Thomas’ franchise record for postseason scoring this year. He scored a game-high 26 points in Boston’s 94-80 win in Game 3 and matched a team record by making all 16 of his free throws.
He’ll break another franchise mark in Game 4 on Monday night when he and the Pistons try to even the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics.
Hamilton is set to play in his 114th playoff game, surpassing Bill Laimbeer’s team record.
“Since we’ve been here, Rip has been our No. 1 option,” said All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups, who signed as a free agent two months before Detroit traded for Hamilton in 2002. “He delivers every night.”
Some stats back that up.
Hamilton has scored 20-plus points in 70 of his 113 playoff games since 2003, trailing only one player’s ability to reach that mark during the same span. San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan had 72 20-point postseason games since 2003 entering Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
Since 1992, only Shaquille O’Neal (96), Duncan (80) and Bryant (75) had more 20-point games than Hamilton in their first 113 postseason games.
Despite those facts and championship rings from the NBA in 2004 and NCAA in 1999, some will still say Hamilton is the second-best player from Connecticut in the series.
Ray Allen is generally regarded as the No. 1 UConn player.
The eight-time All-Star scored 23-plus points a game over eight seasons with Milwaukee and Seattle before his scoring averaged dipped to 17 points this season as the third wheel of Boston’s Big Three.
In 1996, he became the first Husky to be a back-to-back All-American as he led the school to at least the NCAA regional semifinals in each of his three seasons. Allen left school early as the third-leading scorer in program history and the Bucks drafted him No. 5 overall.
Hamilton is a three-time All-Star, who has averaged 18 points over his career in the regular season and 21 in the playoffs. When UConn won a championship in 1999, Hamilton was the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four as a junior, leading to the Wizards drafting him No. 7 overall.
Pistons coach Flip Saunders and Celtics coach Doc Rivers both said the Ray-or-Rip debate motivates both players.
“There’s a hidden agenda between those two: `Who’s the best from Connecticut,”’ Saunders said.
“It’s human,” he said. “I wouldn’t doubt that. I don’t think any of that gets in the way of the game. But Rip is a great player and Ray is a great player because of pride. So yeah, I wouldn’t doubt that that was in play at all.”
Both players dismissed the rivalry.
“I just want to win,” Hamilton said.
Allen said the topic is irrelevant to him, but added that he understands it.
“The beautiful thing is I have fans who think I’m the best from UConn, Rip has fans and Donyell Marshall has fans,” Allen said. “People will choose who’s the best, but it doesn’t really matter to me.”
What does matter to Allen is finding quiet time each day.
He drives in silence during part of his short commute to Boston’s practice facility, helping clear his mind, and he doesn’t bob his head with headphones covering his ears like many NBA players.
“If you’re always saying someone else’s lyrics, you’re taking time away from saying your own thoughts in your head,” Allen said.
He arrives at arenas at least an hour before most players in the league so that he can be on the court working on his smooth stroke 3 hours before the tip.
“I’ve been doing that for about 10 years,” Allen said. “You get to think when you shoot. When there’s nobody on the floor and not many people in the building, you can really zone in on your thoughts.
“I’ve always taken cabs, which has taken me through every back alley and street in an NBA city. I’ve also been to every entrance, trying to find out how to get in arenas because they’re locked when I get there sometimes.”
Allen bristled at the notion that he can’t lock down Hamilton defensively because the Pistons’ star is in constant motion, running around screens to set up a mid-range game that draws comparisons to Reggie Miller as the best in league history.
“It’s not tough guarding him because I don’t get tired, either,” Allen said. “This is why I condition my body to sustain my energy against guys like Rip.”