Williamson scored 15 of his 19 points in the final period as the Pistons staged a huge rally and powered their way past the Kings, 99-88, to end an eight-game slide in the series.
At or near the top of their respective conferences, the Pistons and Kings are a study in contrasts. The Pistons, who lead the Eastern Conference, are a blue-collar team that relies on physical and active defense. The Kings, who are third in the West, are more of a finesse team that relies on crisp passing and sharp shooting.
That worked for three quarters as Sacramento built a 77-67 lead entering the final period. But in the fourth quarter, the Pistons pushed around the Kings, who didn’t push back as they were outscored, 32-11, and had their six-game winning streak snapped.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, especially heading out on the road now, that we can stop people and play at a more moderate tempo,” Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think that is always important when you go out on the road.”
“We just beat one of the best teams in the West,” Williamson said. “Even after they came out and played that well at the start, we were able to tighten up our defense and slow down the tempo on offense.”
Detroit limited Sacramento to 4-of-21 shooting in the final period. The Kings were held without a basket over the last five minutes as the Pistons closed with a 15-1 run.
“We only scored 11 points,” Kings forward Chris Webber said. “I can’t remember the last time that’s happened, so they played good defense in the second half.”
Just before the horn sounded, Kings forward Keon Clark grabbed a rebound and fired it the length of the court in disgust.
“I wasn’t expecting us to lose the momentum we had in the first half, to be honest with you, but we did,” Clark said.
“Hopefully we learned a lesson: You have to play 48 minutes,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “On the road, to beat good teams when you have a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter, you have to respond and we didn’t do it. They picked up their defense and took the game away.”
Williamson outscored his former team in the fourth quarter. He did most of his damage from the low post, where he overpowered Jim Jackson.
“I’ve been waiting for three years for this. That’s how long I’ve been trying to beat them,” Williamson said. “You always want to do well against and old team and your ex-teammates. I even asked them yesterday if they could give me a win tonight, just so I have one against them.”
Williamson’s powerful play impressed the Kings.
“He was aggressive. He took it to the basket,” Adelman said.
“Corliss, he’s a heck of a post player,” Webber said. “I think Corliss really took over the game.”
Clifford Robinson scored 21 points to lead a balanced attack for the Pistons, who opened a 1 1/2-game lead over New Jersey in the race for the best record in the East. They beat the Kings for the first time since February 23, 1998.
“Corliss and I have been trying since we left there to beat that team and we weren’t going to let it happen again,” said Pistons guard Jon Barry, another former King. “It’s been three times for me and five or seven or something for him. That’s tough.”
“Jon and I have been talking about how we wanted to get one because neither one of us have been able to do it,” Williamson said.
Webber, a Detroit native who spurned the Pistons during his free agency two years ago, scored 22 points but battled foul trouble made just 9-of-25 shots. He was booed throughout by the sellout crowd of 22,076 at The Palace.
“It wasn’t louder tonight than it was last year,” he said. “It was just a good game. I love the game of basketball. Anytime I get to play, especially in front of my family and close to my hometown of Detroit, it feels good.”
“Usually he feeds on stuff like the crowd booing him and turns it into a positive,” Pistons All-Star forward Ben Wallace said. “But after he got into foul trouble, and they really got on him, I think it might have taken him out of his game a little bit.”
Two free throws, an inside basket and a jumper by by Williamson capped a 14-3 run that opened the fourth quarter and gave the Pistons an 81-80 lead. Webber answered with a three-point play with 7:13 left.
A follow shot by Peja Stojakovic gave the Kings an 87-84 lead with 5:04 to go, but Sacramento did not score from the field again. Williamson had a free throw, steal and dunk to tie it, and Chauncey Billups made a pair of 3-pointers around a free throw by Webber, giving Detroit a 93-88 lead with 1:31 left.
Williamson had a running hook and two foul shots around a dunk by Robinson as the Pistons poured it on in the final minute.
“Corliss was great off the bench scoring the ball and creating for others and they just gave us a much-needed burst of energy,” Carlisle said.
“Just the threat of him with us having to rotate gave a lot of people opportunities to get some open looks,” Webber said.
Billups scored 18 points and Wallace and Richard Hamilton added 12 apiece for the Pistons, who shot 46 percent (38-of-83).
Stojakovic scored 21 points for the Kings, who shot 44 percent (37-of-84) and gave up 25 points on 15 turnovers.
The Kings began as if they were going to run the Pistons out of the building. Stojakovic made 7-of-8 shots and scored 16 points in the first quarter as they raced to a 33-19 lead.
A 3-pointer by Jackson gave Sacramento its largest lead at 53-32 with 4:35 left in the second quarter. But Detroit closed with a 14-4 surge to get within 57-46 at halftime. “We got down 21 points in the second quarter and if it goes to 30, it’s ‘game over,’” Barry said. “We knew that and we just stuck with it and got it to 11 at the half and gave ourselves a chance.”
The Pistons got even closer, pulling within 62-57 on a follow shot by Michael Curry with 7:58 left in the third quarter. But the Kings called timeout, regrouped and responded with a 9-2 run that rebuilt the lead to 12 points.