AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Detroit Pistons have long had a reputation for playing hard only when their backs are against the wall.
They are starting to break out of that mold.
For the second time in three nights, the Pistons blew open a game in the first half and cruised to an easy victory. Tayshaun Prince scored 14 of his 21 points in the first quarter, and Detroit routed the Charlotte Bobcats 113-87 last night.
"This team has been criticized since I got here for starting slowly," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "You can't say that about them right now."
Detroit has won eight straight, including a perfect 5-0 record on an 11-day homestand.
"We've got things rolling right now, especially at home," said Prince, who hit four of Detroit's eight first-half 3-pointers. "They were doing a lot of doubling, and we were getting a lot of good looks outside. We just had to be ready to knock them down."
Detroit led by as many as 27 in the first half of Friday's win over Portland, and it only took them nine minutes to build a 27-7 lead over the Bobcats.
"We got off to a really slow start, and that Detroit Pistons team is too good to spot them points," said Bobcats coach Sam Vincent. "Even when you play well, they are a tough team to beat."
The Pistons were only seriously challenged in the first game of the extended homestand, when they beat the Lakers on Prince's late 3-pointer. Before the easy wins over the Trail Blazers and Bobcats, they beat the Mavericks by 23 and knocked off the shorthanded Miami Heat.
"We're just so much better this year at home than we were last season," Billups said. "I think a lot of that is because of our bench."
Richard Hamilton added 18 for Detroit, which had seven players with at least eight points. Jason Richardson, playing 30 minutes south of his hometown, led all scorers with 27 points.
Charlotte missed 12 of its first 14 shots and turned the ball over six times in the first quarter. Prince outscored the Bobcats by a point in the period and added two rebounds and two assists.
"He couldn't miss a shot," said Raymond Felton. "We got off to a slow start, and we couldn't ever recover."
Thanks to the big lead, the Pistons were able to start resting their starters after one quarter. For the second game in a row, Billups didn't play in the second period, and Prince only saw 36 seconds of action.
"These last two games have been good for us, because the bench has gotten extended minutes and they've taken advantage of it," Billups said. "It takes a lot of pressure off us when we know that they are going to come out and play that well."
The Bobcats had more luck against the Pistons reserves, but still trailed 55-38 at the half. Richardson had 16 points in the half, but was the only Bobcats player with more than five.
Charlotte never got the margin back to single digits in the second half, and the final moments turned into an informal dunk contest for the Pistons' young reserves. Rodney Stuckey impressed his veteran teammates with a driving slam in traffic, but fellow rookie Arron Afflalo was scorned for his routine dunk on a fast break.
"That was horrible," Billups joked. "He looked like me dunking. He should be ashamed to have even done that right after Stuckey dunked on somebody's head."
NOTES: Rasheed Wallace was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team yesterday, replacing injured Kevin Garnett. ... Jason Maxiell, often compared to Ben Wallace for his rebounding and shot blocking, had an unfortunate Wallace-like moment in the first quarter when he shot an airball on a free throw. ... Bobcats coach Sam Vincent picked up a first-quarter technical after telling referee Leon Wood that he had gotten five straight calls wrong.42.67112 -83.22054