MILWAUKEE (AP)—If the Detroit Pistons were this good on offense more often they wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on their throttling defense.
Neither team had shot better than 45 percent in the best-of-seven series that shifts to Auburn Hills, Mich., for Game 5 on Thursday night.
Milwaukee has never recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a series.
“I don’t think we can play better,” first-year Pistons coach Larry Brown said. “The final score was deceiving, like it was Saturday night. But I think that’s about as good as we played all year.”
Detroit scored 28 points off 16 turnovers, many on easy baskets late in the game. The Pistons’ menacing defense was simply an accessory on this night.
“We all wanted the rock,” said Rasheed Wallace, who scored 20 points for Detroit.
Embarrassed by becoming the first team to lose at home in the playoffs this season, the Pistons used their defense to turn things around with a 95-85 win in Game 3 on Saturday.
On Monday night, they relied on an offense that benefited from a resolve to make the extra pass and from Milwaukee’s many miscues.
Van Horn, who doesn’t have the size to be the kind of defender Skinner is, scored just 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
“It shows the character of this ballclub, the unselfishness,” Wallace said. “I had shots wide open, Chauncey had shots wide open, and Rip. But to make that extra shot to get it to the other guys who might have had a better shot, well, why not?”
Hamilton’s layup with 6:26 left made it 89-75, and the Bucks made their last run, pulling to 95-88 on Damon Jones’s 16-footer with 2:18 left. Prince responded with a 3-pointer and the Bucks never got closer than eight after that.
“We played good defense for 22 seconds but then they’d hit the shot at the buzzer and that took the wind out of our sails,” Jones said. “But the reason they shot such a high percentage all night was the 28 points on the break.”
Even when the Bucks fouled, they found no comfort. The Pistons went 20-of-21 from the free throw line, including making all 12 in the fourth quarter, eight in the final 1:09.
Both Jones and Joe Smith set career playoff highs with 17 points, and Jones added a career playoff-best 10 assists to go with just one turnover.
Redd, who was 5-for-19 from the field, and Mason were limited to 12 and eight points, respectively.
Van Horn, who has been coming off the bench because of injuries since late March, averaged just six points as a sub in the first three games of this series. He had seven points in the first quarter, when the Bucks scored 27 points, their second-highest total in a quarter in the playoffs.
Van Horn’s three turnovers were more than any other starter but Redd, who had four.
“I’m a big fan of Keith’s,” said Brown, who coached Van Horn at Philadelphia last season. “He’s not the kind of player that comes off the bench. I thought he got them started. And that, to me, is a tribute to the coaching over there.”
Van Horn picked up two quick fouls midway through the second quarter, the second coming after Ben Wallace stripped him of the ball underneath the Bucks’ basket.
He sat out the final 6:50 of the first half, which ended with Smith’s buzzer-beating jumper from the top of the key that pulled the Bucks to 52-49.
The Pistons never relinquished the lead in the second half, however.
“It’s tough to make a run,” said Smith, “when you’re constantly takingthe ball out of the net.”
The Pistons scored 108 points in Game 1, thanks to 28 points off 25 turnovers. … Asked if he would have stepped in to stop the Bucks from leaving Milwaukee had the franchise been sold last summer, NBA commissioner David Stern said, “Not necessarily. I mean, the reality is we’ve moved teams from Vancouver, we’ve moved teams from Charlotte.” Michael Jordan came close to buying the Bucks last summer before U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl pulled the team off themarket. … The Bucks outrebounded Detroit 38-33 and had 15 offensive boards.