AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—For nearly everyone at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday night, the Raptors-Pistons game was nothing more than a glorified exhibition.
For Toronto rookie Uros Slokar, though, it was the chance of a lifetime.
With both teams tuning up for the postseason, the little-used Slovenian scored 18 points in 30 minutes even as his team was losing 100-84. He came into the game with 20 career points in 19 games.
“I’ve been waiting all year for a chance like this,” he said. “For me, every game might be my last, so I have to prove to someone that I can play. That went pretty well tonight.”
Neither team had anything to play for—the Pistons are locked into the Eastern Conference’s top seed and the Raptors will be No. 3—but Detroit coach Flip Saunders didn’t want a repeat of Monday’s feeble loss to Philadelphia.
“We were consistent in the first half,” Saunders said. “In the second half, when you’re up 25, it is pretty tough to tell the guys to go out there and play.”
Unfortunately for the Raptors, Morris Peterson was still on the floor in the final two minutes when he hyperextended his right knee. He limped off the floor, and was helped back to the locker room, but didn’t think the injury was serious.
“My first thought was ‘Oh no, not now’, but I think it scared me more than being any actual injury,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to miss any practices or games, but we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow.”
Peterson played 38 minutes before the injury, but Toronto coach Sam Mitchell didn’t have any regrets.
“A guy can play two minutes and get hurt—that’s basketball,” he said. “Someone had to be out there, unless one of you (media members) wanted to play.”
Hamilton, who finished with 12 points, was the only Pistons starter to reach double figures, but four reserves scored 10 or more points, led by Flip Murray’s 16.
“It was cool,” said Chauncey Billups, who had two points and 10 assists in 21 minutes. “It was fun for us to come out, play hard, get our rhythm back and then just be able to sit back and watch.”
Peterson had 14 points and 13 rebounds before the injury.
“I was trying to treat this like a regular game,” he said. “I wanted to be aggressive and get ready for the playoffs.”
Detroit led 23-18 at the end of one quarter, but turned the game into a laugher by outscoring the Raptors 38-19 in the second quarter. Ten of Detroit’s 12 players scored in the half, with Billups and Nazr Mohammed the only players kept off the scoresheet.
The Pistons outshot Toronto 61 percent to 34 percent in the half, and had 21 assists to just eight for the Raptors.
“We got good shots,” Mitchell said. “We just didn’t make any.”
Billups ended his shutout by scoring the first points of the third quarter, boosting Detroit’s lead to 63-37.
The Raptors made a minor run, cutting the margin to 65-50, but Detroit moved the advantage back to 77-56 at quarter’s end and cruised to the victory.
“Defensively we were good, and offensively we executed,” Saunders said. “We had 21 assists in the first half, so that’s good unselfish basketball.”
Tayshaun Prince led Detroit’s starters with 25 minutes, only eight in the second half.
^Notes: Detroit finishes the regular season Wednesday at Boston, while the Raptors are home against Philadelphia. … Both teams were paying almost as much attention to Orlando’s win over Washington as to their own game, because it could help decide both Detroit and Toronto’s first-round matchup. … The Raptors have lost seven straight games at the Palace.