AUBURN HILLS, Mich. The Detroit Pistons traded Chauncey Billups because they believed Rodney Stuckey was ready to become a big contributor.
On this night, he showed they were right.
Stuckey scored a career-high 40 points last night to help the Pistons overcome an injury to Allen Iverson in a 104-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
We came out slow in the third quarter and I knew I had to pick it up, said Stuckey, who topped his previous career high by 13 points. My teammates were finding me, I was getting to the basket and getting to the free-throw line and I scored 40 points. I was just taking what the defense gave me.
Stuckey has been Detroit s best player since coach Michael Curry moved him into the starting lineup seven games ago.
I ve always felt, even last year, that he was ready to start, Curry said. Tonight, he was dictating the game. He wants to be an All-Star, and he s working in that direction.
The Pistons are 11-11 since Iverson joined the team, but they didn t need much from him against Chicago. The star guard managed only five points, sitting out most of the second half with a groin strain. He shot 0-for-7 from the field and made five of six free throws only the second time in his career that he didn t make a field goal in a game.
The Pistons announced afterward that Iverson was day-to-day.
Hopefully, with a couple days rest, he ll be able to go on Friday, Curry said.
Tayshaun Prince had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Detroit. Richard Hamilton scored 14, while Antonio McDyess added 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Stuckey did an awesome job tonight, Hamilton said. We know he s capable, because of his aggressiveness and how he attacks the basket. Tonight, he had his jump shot rolling and he wasn t forcing shots. That s the great thing about it.
Larry Hughes led the Bulls with 19 points, while Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon had 18 each before fouling out. Derrick Rose also fouled out, with 10 points.
Detroit led by as many as 19 in the second quarter, but needed Prince s runner at the buzzer to take a 58-45 lead into halftime.
We just dug ourselves too much of a hole again, Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. We tried to make a run, but the foul trouble really hurt us.
The Bulls got back into the game by scoring the first 12 points of the third quarter, helped by eight straight misses by the Pistons.
Stuckey ended the drought with a 3-pointer, then hit a layup to put the Pistons up 64-57. By that point, Nocioni, Gordon and Rose were all on the bench with four fouls.
Hamilton s three-point play gave the Pistons a 10-point lead with 9:40 to play, and Rose picked up his fifth foul seconds later.
They must have looked like fouls, because they kept calling them, said Rose, who played 21 minutes before fouling out. It was tough to have to spend so much of the game on the bench.
The Bulls had one last chance, but Rose missed an open 3-pointer with 3:40 left and Prince dunked on the other end to seal it.
This was a frustrating game, because I feel like we gave away another opportunity, Del Negro said. Stuckey was the difference we couldn t control him and he killed us.