Pistons 95, Bulls 93
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Ben Wallace got the reaction he wanted, not the result.
In his first game at The Palace since leaving to play for Chicago, Wallace wanted anything but an apathetic reception from the crowd that adored him the previous six seasons.
Wallace was greeted by a mix of boos and cheers when he was introduced, then was booed virtually every time he touched the ball.
The four-time Defensive Player of the Year even encouraged the sellout crowd to jeer him louder.
“I know how crazy The Palace fans can get, so I knew they could do better than that,” said Wallace, who finished with six points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. “I wanted to see how loud they would boo.”
The fans were cheering loud ended after Webber’s shot gave the Pistons their fourth straight win and 15th in 18 games with him in the starting lineup.
After Wallace decided to accept the Bulls’ four-year, $60 million contract offer—$10 million more than the Pistons were willing to pay—Nazr Mohammed was quickly signed. That addition hasn’t worked out for the Pistons, but they made up for it by acquiring Webber last month after he was cut by Philadelphia.
“I’m not trying to replace Ben,” Webber said. “I just am playing like a guy that is happy to be a Piston.”
Wallace seemed to miss being a Piston.
He had dinner with some former teammates Saturday night. After the game, he came into Detroit’s locker room to tease Chauncey Billups about his white, fox coat and to joke with teammates in the shower.
“Those guys weren’t just teammates, they were my friends,” Wallace said. “We won a championship together, but we have a bond that goes beyond basketball. We still call each other and keep up with each other. That hasn’t changed.”
Flip Saunders, who reached 100 wins quicker than any coach in Pistons history, said the connection between his players and Wallace led to a rocky start.
“It was kind of like the little brother playing against big brother,” Saunders said. “Then, we got down 16 and we kind of just played and didn’t think too much.”
The Bulls went on a 23-3 run before and after halftime to take a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter. The Pistons got back in the game by scoring the last 12 points of the third quarter, pulling within two.
“I thought Maxiell changed the game when he got in there,” Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. “We couldn’t match up with him.”
With just under two minutes left, the Pistons led 93-86. Gordon responded with a 3-pointer and another basket to pull the Bulls within two, then Prince missed two free throws with 18.7 seconds left to give Chicago a chance.
Gordon made two free throws to tie it with 15 seconds to go.
On Detroit’s final possession, Billups dribbled the ball up the court and allowed time to tick off the clock before missing a jump shot from the left wing. Webber positioned himself perfectly on the right side of the basket to get the rebound and put back the shot.
Gordon had a good look at what would’ve been a game-winning 3-pointer just before the final buzzer, but just missed the attempt from the left corner.
“To cough the game in the third quarter and to have some of the plays we did, there is no excuse,” Skiles said. “We can’t just say that we have young players anymore. We are past that.
“At some point, we have to develop some poise because it’s costing us too many games and it cost us today. We went through a six-minute stretch that we looked panicked.”
Wallace turned his left ankle after landing on Brown’s foot in the first quarter, put ice on it, and returned. Saunders took him out for good early in the third quarter. “We decided to not take any gambles,” Saunders said. “He could’ve come back.” … Saunders reached his 100th victory with the Pistons in his 137th game, getting to the milestone quicker than Larry Brown (155), Rick Carlisle (163), Doug Collins (164) and Chuck Daly (171)…. Chicago was without Andres Nocioni (right foot). … Webber’s previous high with the Pistons was 19 points. He scored 21 on Dec. 8 with the 76ers against Washington.