After struggling the first two months of the season while playing short-handed, the Detroit Pistons have put together their longest winning streak in almost a year.
Leading to even more optimism is the team finally getting healthy.
Detroit (11-12), which has been severely hampered by injuries, got a boost in its latest contest with the surprise return of Hamilton, who hadn’t played since the season opener because of an ankle injury.
Hamilton finished with 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting in Saturday’s 104-95 win over Golden State.
“I’ve got to give kudos to Rip - tonight was really the first time he’s even run up and down the floor, but he just wanted to help the team,” coach John Kuester said. “I’ve been in the game for 20 years, and very rarely do you see a guy do what he did tonight.”
Hamilton did not plan on playing, even as late as the morning shootaround.
“It wasn’t feeling right, but I went home and my wife told me to stop feeling sorry for myself and to get out there and play,” he said. “I knew I was going to be rusty, but I thought I could figure it out.”
While Hamilton returned, Detroit was still missing three key players. Ben Gordon(notes) sat out for the third consecutive game with an ankle injury, Tayshaun Prince(notes) (back) hasn’t played since the third game of the season and Will Bynum(notes) missed his second straight Saturday with an ankle injury.
The Pistons’ official Web site said Gordon, who is averaging 18.7 points, could return for this game.
Detroit’s reserves have made steady contributions during the current winning streak. Charlie Villanueva(notes) scored 24 points Saturday and he’s averaging 20.0 points off the bench the last four games.
Detroit’s winning streak is its longest since a seven-game run Dec. 23-Jan. 4. Extending it won’t be easy as the team starts a three-game road trip. The Pistons, who are 3-8 on the road, visit New Orleans on Wednesday and then surprising Oklahoma City on Friday.
Houston (13-10) has been playing just as well recently. Although the Rockets are coming off an ugly 101-88 loss at Toronto on Sunday, it was the team’s second defeat in seven games.
Houston shot 36.8 percent and was a season-worst 3 of 24 from 3-point range. Two nights after being outscored by 10 points in the first quarter in an eventual win over Philadelphia, it was held to 17 first-quarter points by the Raptors.
“We can’t afford to start this way,” said Luis Scola(notes), who had 21 points and 15 rebounds. “We’re not that good. We can’t expect to come out and be down 20 and pick it up whenever we want to and come back and win the game.”
Trevor Ariza(notes), the team’s second-leading scorer, will miss this game after being suspended for swinging his arm at Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan(notes) following a steal. The forward had only one point in that game after going 0 for 9 from the field in 26 minutes.
Houston swept the season series in 2008-09 and extended its home win streak over Detroit to three with a 106-101 double-overtime victory March 18.