Tim Thomas scored 21 points and Milwaukee held Detroit scoreless for seven minutes in the fourth quarter Friday night for a 96-86 victory, snapping the Pistons’ six-game winning streak.
“They are known as a defensive team, but we can be a good defensive team down the stretch,” said Milwaukee’s Michael Redd, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the decisive fourth quarter. “That’s the best we’ve played our zone, probably all year long. With the shooters they have, we did a tremendous job.”
Detroit took a 76-71 lead on Richard Hamilton’s 20-foot jumper with 10:25 left, but did not score again until Ben Wallace hit a free throw with 3:08 left. Milwaukee ran off 16 consecutive points during the Pistons’ dry spell, opening an 87-76 lead on Sam Cassell’s baseline jumper with 3:25 to go.
“We hit a drought where we missed shots and made turnovers,” Detroit coach Rick Carlisle said. “They got hot and hit some 3s, their timely shot-making and our stretch were we struggled was our undoing.”
Redd keyed the run. With Milwaukee trailing 76-73, he stole the ball and scored on a layup, took a pass from Toni Kukoc and scored on another layup and hit a 3-pointer to give the Bucks an 80-76 lead with 7:09 to go.
He played so well that Thomas never got on the court in the fourth quarter, despite Milwaukee coach George Karl saying the 6-foot-10 forward was his best player Friday night.
“That’s a great thing when your best player is sitting on the sidelines and you can still get it done,” Thomas said after being told of Karl’s comments. “That’s a big plus. It means that there are a number of guys stepping up and playing well.”
Karl said teams know how to attack the Bucks’ man-to-man defense, but their zone can be played many different ways.
“There’s an uncertainty to the game, especially when you are ahead,” Karl said. “The other team doesn’t know exactly how to get caught up. Where in the man-to-man, by the fourth quarter they know their matchups, they know where they want to go and they know what they want to run.”
Cliff Robinson’s 3-pointer cut Milwaukee’s lead to 92-84 with 1:31 left, but Ray Allen hit a jumper with 52 seconds remaining for a 94-84 lead that sealed the victory.
The game featured Milwaukee’s offense, ranked fourth in the NBA at 98.7 points a game, against Detroit’s defense, first in the league at 85.9 points. During the Pistons’ winning streak, they gave up only 80 points per game.
Cassell scored 16 points and Allen added 14 for Milwaukee, which has won 13 of 16, coinciding with the return of Kukoc from the injured list. Milwaukee is 21-11 with Kukoc and 6-12 without him.
Detroit was led by Hamilton’s 28 points. Chauncey Billups added 17, but Wallace was held to eight rebounds, all on the defensive end. He leads the league in rebounding at 14.7 per game, but averaged 20 boards in the Pistons’ last two games.
The Pistons led 62-57 with 6:29 left in the third quarter when Wallace picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench. Milwaukee chipped away at the lead, tying it at 71 after three quarters, on Allen’s two free throws with 4 seconds left.
Jason Caffey scored on a layin with 18 seconds left in the second quarter to give Milwaukee a 51-49 halftime lead. Hamilton led all scorers with 18 in thehalf.
The offseason trade that sent Glenn Robinson and his 20.7 points a game to Atlanta has not hurt the Bucks offense. After 50 games, the Bucks are averaging 98.7 points, up from 97.5 a year ago. … Cassell, who complained about playing only 31 minutes against Dallas on Wednesday night, played 29 against Detroit. … The Bucks won the season series 3-1. … Milwaukee is 5-2on its eight-game homestand that concludes Sunday against Memphis.