NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Ben Wallace’s post-suspension rustiness didn’t last long.
Wallace made nine of his first 10 shots, even hitting an unusual off-balance fade off the glass, and finished with 22 points to lead the Detroit Pistons to a 92-69 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.
“Everybody was getting good looks and I made a couple of lucky shots,” Wallace said. “It was good ball movement. Each time we’re able to get the ball moving side-to-side, I can get to the basket and I hit a couple of jumpers.”
In Detroit’s loss at San Antonio a night earlier, Wallace had an unspectacular return—2-for-9 shooting and five points—from a six-game suspension for his role in a brawl against Indiana last month.
Wallace got out of that funk early against the Hornets, who have yet to win at home in eight tries. He had 11 first-quarter points, including a pair of alley-oop dunks, as Detroit took an early double-digit lead and never looked back.
Wallace’s 22 points was a career-high for a regular season game. He also had eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.
“He was big tonight. He definitely knocked off some of the rust,” said Richard Hamilton, who had 21 points and was the passer on one of Wallace’s alley-oop dunks. “We needed a win so bad we just wanted to jump on them and stay aggressive.”
Lee Nailon led New Orleans with 18 points, 14 in the first quarter. David Wesley added 14. Reserve guard Alex Garcia, returning from a groin injury, added 11, including a pair of 3s in the fourth quarter that cut a 22-point deficit to 11.
“I felt bad for them. They’re so beat up,” Brown said. “I give them credit. They cut it to 11 with all those young kids in the fourth quarter. It was pretty neat that they kept playing.”
Recent All-Stars Baron Davis (back) and Jamaal Magloire (finger) already were out with injuries, along with free-agent pickup Rodney Rogers. Then less than two minutes into the game, David West, who had become a recent starter, sprained his right knee in a collision with Prince. West did not return.
Detroit responded every time the Hornets threatened to get the lead below double-digits.
When Ben Wallace bounced a short jumper off the front rim midway through the fourth, Prince came flying down the lane for a one-handed jam that made the score 80-67. Shortly after, Wallace missed a free throw and Hamilton slipped in for the rebound and an easy layup to make it 85-67.
The Hornets, who shot 36 percent, including 4-of-18 from 3-point range, never got within striking distance again.
“We’re making the same dumb mistakes every night,” Wesley said. “If we do good things, we’ll give ourselves a chance. Maybe not on a night when we’re playing the defending champions but there’s going to be opportunities out there. … There’s a light (at the end of the tunnel). I just don’t know how bright it is.”
Detroit was a step ahead of the Hornets from the beginning. Hamilton scored 13 points of his points in the first quarter to complement Wallace’s fast start.
Even the seldom used Darko Milicic got involved, driving the baseline for a dunk that gave Detroit a 43-26 lead midway through the second quarter. At that point, the Pistons were shooting nearly 70 percent from the floor.
Detroit’s defense also denied the Hornets inside position through much of the half. New Orleans settled for jumpers on 15 of its first 18 shots of the second quarter and didn’t attempt its first free throws of the game until 1:14 remained before halftime.
Ben Wallace once scored 24 in a playoff game. … The Hornets had two new players in uniform. Guard Dan Dickau arrived following a trade Friday that sent Darrell Armstrong to Dallas, while forward Corsley Edwards, who was playing in the Continental Basketball Association with Sioux Falls, was signed to a free-agent contract. Edwards made his first appearance at the start of the second quarter and scored his first points 2:39 later. Dickau saw action late in the fourth quarter. … Detroit scored 32 points in the first quarter, the most by a Hornets opponent this season. … The victory was Detroit’s third on the road.