AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—The Detroit Pistons made all the passes, shots and stops against Philadelphia, just like they did six months ago in the first round of the playoffs.
The only difference was the coaches.
Richard Hamilton scored 37 points to lead Detroit past the 76ers 108-88 on Wednesday night.
With Flip Saunders taking Larry Brown’s place in Detroit and Maurice Cheeks replacing Jim O’Brien, the Pistons were still too tough on defense and balanced on offense for the Sixers.
“It seemed like we just picked up where we left off last season,” said Tayshaun Prince, who scored 16 points. “It didn’t seem like a first game.”
Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson scored 31 points, but he didn’t have much help — much like in Detroit’s 4-1 series victory en route to its second straight trip to the NBA Finals.
Chris Webber had 16 points, but he was scoreless in the third quarter, and the other three starters failed to score more than eight.
“We have to get other guys involved,” Cheeks said. “We’re not just trying to win games with Allen and Chris doing all the scoring.”
The Pistons unveiled their 2005 conference championship banner before the game, then took control for good in the first quarter.
Detroit, which never trailed, led by 10 midway through the quarter while holding the Sixers to 2 of 13 shooting and maintained the cushion easily throughout its season opener.
Philadelphia lost to Milwaukee 117-108 in overtime at home on Tuesday night, opening night in the NBA.
“Everything isn’t starting out well, but you have to look at it like we can turn it around,” Iverson said.
Perhaps the back-to-back games wore down the Sixers, who appeared to be a step slow against a team motivated to prove it will not take a step back without a Hall of Fame coach.
“We’re still the same team, a veteran ballclub,” Rasheed Wallace said. “We left last season with a bad taste in our mouth, eight points short of going back to back.
“That’s our main food that feeds this team.”
The Pistons say they can still be relentless on defense, one of Brown’s trademarks, with a better offense with Saunders on the sideline.
They showed a glimpse of that combination when Wallace blocked two shots on one possession, leading to Prince’s alley-oop dunk on a pass from Hamilton in the first quarter.
Hamilton scored on an array of mid-range jumpers, layups and runners.
“It’s fun to play in this offense,” he said. “I’m allowed to move in a motion-type atmosphere. It allows me to elevate my game even more.”
Chauncey Billups had 12 points and 10 of Detroit’s 30 assists, a statistic Saunders loved to see when he looked at the box score.
“We share the ball,” Saunders said.
Iverson looked and sounded frustrated midway through the third quarter.
He screamed at Andre Iguodala for not passing him the ball, then shouted, “Hey!” to his other teammates as Prince beat the Sixers back down the court for an easy dunk and a 65-50 lead midway through the third quarter.
Reserve John Salmons scored 13 for the Sixers, who are without starting center Samuel Dalembert with a right quadriceps strain.
“We have to get it done, that’s no excuse,” Iverson said.
There was a moment of silence before the game for Rosa Parks, who had a seven-hour funeral Wednesday in Detroit. “I was watching all day,” Billups said. … Webber’s jersey at Detroit Country Day High School was retired Wednesday morning.