AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—With the regular season coming to an end, the biggest question about the Detroit Pistons has been their bench.
That’s why an otherwise meaningless game Friday night may have meant a lot to the defending NBA champions.
On a night when no starter played more than 30 minutes, the Pistons’ reserves combined for 62 points as Detroit routed the Milwaukee Bucks 99-73 for their season-best ninth straight win.
“We did a good job tonight,” guard Carlos Arroyo said. “We feel confident out there, and we feel comfortable with each other. We will be ready come playoff time.”
Detroit is already locked into the Eastern Conference’s second seed, which led coach Larry Brown to worry about his team’s intensity level.
“I hate games like these,” he said before the tipoff. “I wish we were playing meaningful games.”
The Pistons never trailed after halftime and held the Bucks to 38.2 percent shooting.
“If you could write out how you wanted a game to go, that would be it, especially the way the bench played,” Brown said. “I love the way our starters act when the bench is out there. It’s extraordinary to see those guys cheering on every play.
“It makes you feel good as a coach.”
Milwaukee, which has lost 13 straight road games, lost leading scorer Michael Redd early in the third quarter to a sore left Achilles’ tendon. Redd scored eight points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“It started bothering me late in the second quarter,” Redd said. “I wanted to try it in the second half, but it didn’t get any better. We’re going to be cautious. I doubt I’ll play tomorrow. We’ll see after that.”
If Redd misses Milwaukee’s final three games, Friday might have been a fitting end to a disastrous season. The Bucks are 29-50.
“You try to keep your head up,” he said. “But inside, it’s just been terrible.”
“I think that’s going to be the key to our success—guys going out there and wanting to play hard,” said Ben Wallace, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. “Because anybody coming off the bench wants to look at Ronald Dupree and see what he did tonight. That’s what basketball is all about.”
The Pistons led 46-39 after a sloppy first half. Dupree was the only player to reach double figures, scoring 10 points in 8 minutes.
Tayshaun Prince had 11 of his 17 points in the third quarter, helping Detroit extend their lead to 72-63.
The Pistons scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter, including dunks by Prince and McDyess, and cruised the rest of the way.
“It looked like a volleyball contest out there,” Bucks coach Terry Porter said. “They were just throwing the ball up and dunking it on us.”
The Pistons activated Dupree before the game and placed Darvin Ham (foot) on the injured list. … Wallace took 10 shots in the first quarter, two more than his season average for a game. … Marcus Fizer of the Bucks and Porter both picked up fourth-quarter technicals for arguing. … The game was lopsided enough down the stretch that the sellout crowd started chanting for Darko Milicic with 9 minutes left. Milicic played the final 7:37, finishing with four points and two rebounds. … Detroit’s Richard Hamilton took only two shots in 25 minutes and made both.