for this game

Stuckey soars, Iverson struggles as Pistons win

Dec 24, 2008 - 5:06 AM By Chuck Klonke PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- On a night when Allen Iverson struggled with his shot and a sore groin, backcourt mate Rodney Stuckey more than picked up the slack for the Detroit Pistons.

Stuckey scored a career-high 40 points Tuesday to lead the Pistons to a 104-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Stuckey's previous high was 27 points against Minnesota on April 1.

Stuckey's big night didn't surprise teammate Richard Hamilton, who was the last Pistons player to score 40 points in a game.

"Just how aggressive he is," Hamilton said. "How he attacks the basket, and tonight he had his jump shot rolling. He didn't take any forced shots. That was the great thing about it. It was all in the rhythm of the offense.

"When he had 30-something I told him, 'I'm getting out of your way and, when they start fouling, I'm gonna set a screen for you. You just better knock (the free throws) down because we want to win this game.'"

Stuckey stayed low-key about his performance.

"I was just playing my game, being aggressive," he said. "We were getting down in transition in the first half and I got some easy baskets there. Then, I got my shot going.

"I just have to keep getting better. That's how I see it. I had a good game tonight, but there's a lot more games to be played."

Pistons coach Michael Curry said that Stuckey is a better fit as a starter than he was coming off the bench.

He has been in the starting lineup for the last seven games and has averaged better than 18.0 points.

"I felt last year that when he started he could dictate how he wants to play the game," Curry said. "When he's playing 30-35 minutes, he gets into the flow of the game. Playing 20 minutes off the bench, he sometimes would struggle."

Iverson, who had scored in double figures in nine straight games, missed all seven of his field-goal attempts before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with a strained left groin. He finished with five points but had eight assists.

It was the first time Iverson failed to get a field goal since he went 0-of-7 against Cleveland on April 2, 1999, while he was playing for Philadelphia.

Detroit's training staff said that Iverson is day-to-day.

It was the first victory in three games for Detroit, which had lost five straight to Chicago before beating it in the final regular-season meeting in 2007-08.

Larry Hughes led Chicago with 19 points and Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon added 18 apiece.

Detroit started strong and built a 17-4 lead during the first 5:09 of the opening quarter. Rasheed Wallace scored the Pistons' first seven points, and Stuckey added six during the early spurt.

Detroit led 32-19 at the end of the first quarter, when Hughes' basket from beyond halfcourt was disallowed because time had expired. The 32 points by the Pistons matched their highest-scoring first quarter of the season.

"We dug ourselves a pretty good hole in the first quarter and got some foul trouble with Ben, (Nocioni) and Derrick (Rose)," Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We made a nice run in the third quarter but we got in more foul trouble.

"Detroit did a good job of rebuilding the cushion."

Chicago has started slowly in several recent games.

"I have no idea why we keep going down early," Rose said. "I guess that we just have to look at more tape and see what is happening. Coach talks about it every day in practice, but we need to figure it out."

The Pistons increased their lead to 56-37 with just over two minutes left in the first half thanks to a 10-2 run, but Chicago answered with eight straight points. Prince ended the spurt with a short jumper as the first half ended with Detroit leading, 58-45.

Stuckey scored 17 points in the first half for the Pistons, while Hughes countered with 16 off the bench for the Bulls.

Detroit missed its first eight shots of the second half, and Chicago cut the 13-point halftime deficit to 58-57 before Antonio McDyess ended the drought with a free throw.

The Pistons' first basket of the second half was a 3-pointer by Stuckey with 7:10 to go.

Stuckey hit two more baskets during a 10-0 run that put Detroit ahead at 68-57. Stuckey scored 12 points in the third quarter to help the Pistons take an 80-69 advantage into the fourth quarter.

"We've got to come out with a lot more energy at the start of the second half," Hamilton said. "I thought the guys came off the bench and got us the lead back - and Stuckey was awesome."

In several of its recent defeats, Detroit has let double-digit leads slip away.

"When we get our leads, we're taking the ball side-to-side and executing the offense," Curry said. "When we get up by a lot, we have a tendency to shoot quick, to go for the home run play.

"We have to stay within the game and work the game."

Gordon, who was in foul trouble most of the game, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to keep Detroit from pulling away.

After three straight baskets by Gordon brought the Bulls to 92-86 with 5:34 to go, Richard Hamilton hit a 3-point basket to put the Pistons back up by nine.

Chicago's Tyrus Thomas and Lindsey Hunter each hit 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds but, after each one, Stuckey countered with a pair of free throws to secure the victory.

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