CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff thought the Bobcats would have to play a near perfect game to beat Detroit. When they came out flat, it was more than Bickerstaff could stand to watch.
Chauncey Billups had 21 points and 12 assists and the Pistons routed the Bobcats 103-78 on Saturday night to improve to an NBA-best 18-3—the best 21-game mark in franchise history.
“The effort early in that game was probably the worst I’ve ever seen from a Bobcat team. It appeared we were in awe,” said Bickerstaff, who was ejected for picking up two technical fouls late in the first half. “But they’re good. I really don’t see any weaknesses.”
Charlotte won two of three games against Detroit last season and was coming off a two-day break, while the Pistons played Friday night at home. But the Bobcats were never in it, falling behind 14-4, and 21-12 after the first quarter. Charlotte missed 15 of its first 21 shots.
Defensively, the Bobcats changed up assignments and even played some zone, but nothing worked as the Pistons methodically built their lead. Billups’ 3-point play with 10.8 seconds in the first half made it 49-26 as Detroit hardly eased up on the second-year Bobcats.
“Just because they have a losing record, for us to come in here and think we’re going to steamroll these cats, that’s when we lose,” Wallace said.
Bickerstaff didn’t have to watch the second half from the bench. He was ejected after referee Eli Roe gave him back-to-back technical fouls with 1:59 left in the first half, seconds after Roe called a 3-second violation against Okafor. Bickerstaff’s son, 26-year-old John-Blair Bickerstaff, then ran the team as the Bobcats lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
“It was probably a combination of being (upset) with our guys because they weren’t competing—and obviously I better leave the other part alone,” Bernie Bickerstaff said. “I’ve paid enough tonight.”
Detroit, which led by as many as 27 points in the fourth quarter, shot 51 percent. And Billups again led the way in what he’s calling his best season.
“I’m playing the best I’ve ever played right now,” Billups said. “I have that freedom to run the show. I know the offense inside and out, I know where people are going to be. Things are really good right now.”
Charlotte starting small forward Gerald Wallace returned after missing two games with a sprained right index finger, but got into early foul trouble and was ineffective. He was scoreless in 13 minutes.
Bobcats point guard Brevin Knight sat out the fourth quarter because of a bruised right forearm.
“I would just like to apologize. The whole team ought to apologize to the fans,” Brezec said. “We didn’t put up a fight tonight. It was embarrassing.”
Bobcats forward Melvin Ely missed the game with flu-like symptoms. “The guys were teasing him, saying he has the (Rasheed) Wallace flu,” Bickerstaff said. … Pistons coach Flip Saunders acknowledged the uninspired play of late from reserve Darko Milicic. “I’ve noticed the same thing you’ve noticed,” Saunders said. … The crowd of 19,026 was the Bobcats’ second sellout, and the first since opening night. … Even in Charlotte the campaign against embattled Detroit Lions president Matt Millen is alive and well. One fan in the upper deck held a “Fire Millen” sign.