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Prince, Pistons hold off lowly Knicks

Mar 8, 2008 - 5:01 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- In his last visit to Madison Square Garden, Tayshaun Prince had a game to forget. But on Friday, he ensured that he and the rest of his teammates would not have a repeat performance.

Prince scored 28 points as the Detroit Pistons reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff berth to one with a 101-97 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night.

The Pistons won for the 16th time in their last 20 games and also rebounded from Wednesday's 90-78 loss in Boston. They were able to overcome the absence of Rasheed Wallace (sprained left ankle) and the ejection of Richard Hamilton before halftime.

"If somebody is out of the lineup, I've got to be more aggressive and make plays on the offensive end," Prince said. "But I thought the bench did a great job of moving around and setting screens.

"So, it gave me the ability to make plays when the paint wasn't clogged up. That was definitely huge."

They also won less than two months after enduring a miserable 89-65 loss here. Detroit barely avoided setting a team record for fewest points in that contest and, afterwards, Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said they couldn't throw a rock in the ocean.

Detroit shot just 31 percent (23-of-75) in that contest and nobody was as bad as Prince, who failed to score and missed all 10 of his shots.

In this one, it was much different and, combined with Atlanta's loss to Charlotte, moved the Pistons closer to a seventh straight playoff spot.

"You don't forget about a butt-whipping like that," Billups said. "It's tough to forget about one like that. They really took it to us, took care of business and, of course, we come in a little shorthanded with not having Rasheed and get one quarter out of Rip.

"We knew were go to have to grind. We knew it was going to be a tough game. It would be won at the last minute of the game. We're comfortable in those type of situations."

Prince scored 12 points in the third quarter as Detroit took a 76-70 advantage. That still was not enough as Detroit held a 90-87 edge with just over five minutes remaining.

After Jamal Crawford cut the Knicks' deficit to two, Prince nailed the biggest shot of the game - a running floater over Eddy Curry - to make it 99-95 with 9.9 ticks left and seal the game.

"Tayshaun's one of the most underated players in the league," Crawford said. "He's known for his defense but he can give you some offense as well, and he did a great job tonight. He took over the game, and I thought he was the difference."

Besides Prince's big night, Detroit coach Flip Saunders used his bench often as three reserves played at least 20 minutes. Rookie Rodney Stuckey added 13 points in 17 minutes while Jason Maxiell finished with 12 in 30 minutes.

"(We) still find a way," Billups said. "Our bench won this game for us easy. They came in and was phenomenal. They picked up the speed of the game, got easy shots. They got rebounds, got blocks. They just really took great advantage of the minutes they had and kept us afloat in the game, and Tayshaun carried us tonight, so it was a great win."

"We ran into some things," Saunders said. "This was our third (game) in four nights. We were shorthanded already without Rasheed. We just had to keep our composure."

Curry turned in a third straight productive night with 23 points but had two costly misses in the fourth, and Crawford added 17 but was just 6-of-15 from the floor for the Knicks.

New York played without forward Zach Randolph (right foot) and lost its fifth in a row and dropped to 4-16 in its last 20.

"We definitely had our chances and our opportunities," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "We just have to figure out a way to keep getting better in those last three to four minutes of the game, where we execute a little better."

Missing Wallace and using its bench extensively, Detroit appeared to have things well in control when it ripped off 12 straight points early in the second quarter. That was part of a 19-6 run which put the Pistons in front 49-36 with 4:54 remaining on Stuckey's putback.

Stuckey's basket was part of a stretch in which Detroit's reserves scored 19 straight points. Despite the strong play of their bench, the Pistons could not put things away, and the Knicks closed it with a 17-4 run - tying the game at 53-53 on Nate Robinson's layup with 1.2 seconds remaining.

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