DUANE BURLESON / AP Enlarge
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - A game after winning while resting three starters, the Detroit Pistons didn't need much from the top five in an easy 106-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets last night.
Richard Hamilton sat out with a sore hip and had plenty of company on the Detroit bench. Antonio McDyess only played 25 minutes, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace played 24 apiece, and Chauncey Billups was on the floor for 22.
"This is what we want to do down the stretch," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "We want to be able to play the starters for 22 to 24 minutes instead of shutting them down completely. That lets them stay in a rhythm, and our bench is making it possible for us to do it."
Detroit got 45 points from its reserves, led by 14 from rookie Rodney Stuckey.
"This is big, because the more rest we can give the starters, the better it will be for the playoffs," said Stuckey, who added a career-high nine assists. "We know they are going to do their thing, and it is our job to continue it when they come out."
Stuckey had 27 points Tuesday to lead Detroit to a come-from-behind win in Minnesota with Hamilton, Billups and Wallace all in street clothes.
"The kids are so intense and so aggressive that we don't lose anything when we sit down," Billups said. "We know they aren't going to let up, so we have a great deal of trust in them."
The victory was mostly meaningless for Detroit, which needs just one more win to lock up the Eastern Conference's second seed, but Saunders was still happy to see his team's high level of focus.
"I thought we played hard for 48 minutes," he said. "Under the circumstances, that's good to see. It would be easy to take it easy right now and just roll over. We aren't doing that."
The other positive for the Pistons was Antonio McDyess' game-high 19 points. McDyess, who has struggled with his shot for most of the season, has hit 62 percent from the floor in Detroit's last six games.
"I'm just trying to get into open spots and hit shots," McDyess said. "I'm not thinking about it - just trying to convert. I think the guys are just getting me the ball in the right spot."
New Jersey, which was missing Vince Carter (ankle), trails Atlanta by four games with six games left in the race for the East's last playoff spot.
"We just need to keep fighting and playing hard, even without Vince," said Richard Jefferson, who led the Nets with 15 points. "I didn't get to this point by giving up as soon as things turn bad or don't go good. We need to keep playing hard and keep hoping for the best."42.67112 -83.22054