OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Rasheed Wallace has been the consummate team player ever since he joined the Pistons, providing offense, defense and attitude in whatever doses were necessary to keep Detroit on top.
The Pistons needed everything Wallace had to offer on Friday night, and it was barely enough to hold off the Golden State Warriors.
Wallace scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, also making a key steal and a heady length-of-the-court pass for Ben Wallace’s clinching dunk in Detroit’s 106-103 victory.
Chauncey Billups had 29 points and the go-ahead basket in the Pistons’ fifth straight victory, while Richard Hamilton had 22 points and six assists. But Detroit only improved the best start in franchise history to 14-2 thanks to a big dose of ‘Sheed.
“Sheed was active for us down the stretch and ready to make some plays,” Ben Wallace said. “We’ve definitely got a chance to do something special, (but) we’ve just got to go out there and continue to work at it. We can’t let down.”
The clubs traded the lead throughout an entertaining night featuring 21 lead changes. Neither team ever went ahead by more than six points, and the Pistons’ late-game execution—the product of years of togetherness—was the difference against the talented but inexperienced Warriors.
“We’re used to those kinds of situations,” Hamilton said. “Everyone knew that coming out in the fourth quarter, we had to execute some plays and control their offense.”
Jason Richardson scored 36 points and Baron Davis had 14 points and 14 assists for the Warriors, who have dropped consecutive games for the first time all season after winning their previous five. The Warriors even had one last chance to tie it after Ben Wallace’s dunk, but Derek Fisher missed a 3-pointer with 1 second left.
“We just didn’t execute too well in the third and fourth quarter,” Richardson said. “When you’re playing against a good team like that, one of the best teams in the league, you’ve got to execute down the stretch.”
Rasheed Wallace scored his 10 fourth-quarter points in the first 9 1/2 minutes, going through an array of defenders.
“I felt like they didn’t have nobody to stop me, and it opened up some shots for me on the outside,” Wallace said with a shrug.
He also saved his biggest plays for last.
Golden State took a 94-92 lead with 3:41 left when Davis stole a pass and Richardson finished with a dunk, but ‘Sheed hit two free throws—and then capped a stellar defensive game by stealing Davis’ pass and hitting Billups for the go-ahead layup with 2:12 left.
The Pistons maintained that two-point lead until Richardson’s 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left pulled Golden State within 102-101. After Billups and Davis traded free throws, Ben Wallace scored on a length-of-the-court pass from Rasheed Wallace, and Fisher was off-target.
“This one hurts, because our record is 12-8, (and) we can’t afford to lose games like this,” Davis said. “It was a great game, and we had control of it.”
The two-time Eastern Conference champions improved the NBA’s best winning percentage with a difficult victory in the opener of a West Coast road trip that features three games in four nights. Detroit had the last five days off after back-to-back victories over New York and Chicago.
Richardson, a Saginaw native and former Michigan State star who says he loves thrilling the fans watching on television back home, scored 12 points in the first quarter and 18 in the half.
The Warriors had an unusual offensive game: Davis, their catalyst, didn’t score until a fast-break layup with 4:13 left in the second quarter. Fisher kept Golden State in it with 13 points in the first half.
Golden State missed its first seven shots of the fourth quarter, but Detroit couldn’t open a significant lead.
“It’s still a loss,” Murphy said. “We played well enough to win. We were up there in the fourth quarter against a great team, and we have to find a way to win those games.”
Despite consecutive losses, Golden State (12-8) still is off to its best start since 1991-92. … Last Feb. 27, Detroit snapped a four-game losing streak in Oakland with a victory in Davis’ debut with the Warriors. … The Arena was sold out for the second time this season, with 19,596 fans in attendance.