Hamilton scored 25 points, Gordon added 22, and the Pistons ran away from the Memphis Grizzlies 96-74 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
The two guards, both out of UConn, were a combined 17 of 31 from the floor, and that was after Hamilton started the game missing five of his first six shots.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a problem, especially in this locker room,” Hamilton said of sharing time with Gordon. “We’re UConn guys. We know how to win.
“We just go out there and try to feed off each other on the floor.”
Hamilton left the game after spraining his right ankle on a shot with just under 5 minutes to play. He hit one of the two ensuing free throws, then went straight to the dressing room on the next dead ball. Postgame X-rays on the ankle were negative.
“I thought Memphis came out strong in the beginning of the game,” Kuester said. “Our guys were taking the punches and were very resilient in how they competed on every possession.”
Marc Gasol(notes) led Memphis with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Rudy Gay(notes) scored 16 points, and Zach Randolph(notes) recorded 14 points and nine rebounds in his first game with the Grizzlies, who were without the injured Allen Iverson(notes).
After shooting well at the start, Memphis struggled to 36 percent from the field, while Detroit finished at 51 percent.
“It was generally a bad night shooting,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “(Our players) just have to come down to Earth and realize winning in the NBA is very difficult, and it takes a lot of work and effort. Our young guys were like deer in headlights.”
Already leading by 14 entering the final quarter, Detroit clicked off eight unanswered points to open the period, including consecutive 3-pointers by Gordon, and Memphis was on its way to losing its ninth straight season opener.
Memphis shot well early, but the turnover problems that plagued the Grizzlies in the preseason continued. The Detroit pressure defense caused some of the miscues; some came as Memphis tried to run.
“That was the most impressive thing about (Wednesday night’s) victory, the way we played on the defensive end,” Gordon said. “We need to keep that up. We need to be a team that, when we’re not scoring, we can get stops and can kind of hang around in games.”
Hamilton got untracked in the second quarter, connecting on six of his seven shots in the period, en route to 17 first-half points. That helped Detroit carry a 53-41 lead into the dressing room.
Gordon came off the bench to hit five of his first six shots for 15 points in the half. His 3-pointer near the midway point of the second period extended the Pistons’ lead to double digits.
“Guys hit shots and we dropped our head,” Randolph said. “It’s the NBA. Guys are going to hit shots. We’ve just got to keep on playing and play hard for 48 minutes.”
Detroit led by as much as 17 in the third quarter and brought a 71-57 lead into the fourth, which Memphis never really threatened. It was the kind of performance, particularly from Hamilton and Gordon, that is necessary for the Pistons.
“We’re in a situation where we have two guys that are legitimate scorers in this league at the (shooting) guard position,” Prince said. “To put (the questions) to rest, we just have to go out and play basketball and know those two guys are going to do that.
“They stepped up big for us, but that’s what we are going to need from them throughout the season for us to be the team we want to be.”
Notes: Memphis wore its alternate Beale Street Blue uniforms for the first time in the game. Prince started his 437th consecutive game, tops among active players. Kuester acknowledged a bit of nervousness. “The butterflies are there, and I think you’re anxious to get going,” he said before the game. “I’m just lucky to have a great group of guys who work hard at this thing. To get the season going, and to improve each game is going to be important to us, and I’m looking forward to it.” Within seconds of entering the game in the first quarter, Gordon recorded a four-point play. … The 22-point loss was the largest for the Grizzlies in a season opener since the team relocated to Memphis in 2001.