Prince, Iverson help Pistons cool off BucksDec 28, 2008 - 5:11 AM By J.R. Radcliffe PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons have elected to use Amir Johnson only sparingly this month, giving him minutes in half of the team's 12 games in December. The 21-year-old Johnson has done his best to make sure that won't happen again.
Johnson had four blocks, 11 rebounds and contributed to a significant defensive effort as the Pistons held the Milwaukee Bucks to a season-low point total in an 87-76 victory Saturday at the Bradley Center.
Johnson was the only Pistons starter who did not reach double figures in scoring, but his name was a hot topic of conversation afterward.
"Obviously, under the circumstances, it was tough not having Rip," said Tayshaun Prince, referring to ailing second-leading scorer Richard Hamilton.
"But that's a prime opportunity for somebody to come in and be ready ... I think the most important thing is he's been in the starting lineup before, so now he knows how important it is to be ready when coach gives you the opportunity."
Hamilton was out with a groin strain, but the Pistons held the Bucks to an abysmal third quarter and took control of a game that had been close at halftime. Prince finished with 19 points.
"It's a situation where, if we lose one of our great guys, our other guys need to step up," Prince said. "Amir came in and did a great job, (Rasheed Wallace) kind of sparked us up hitting some outside shots, but Allen (Iverson) got us going in the first quarter.
"We pretty much dictated the tempo throughout the game."
That rang truest in the third.
Milwaukee - which entered the game with a tentative hold on the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and five wins in six games - shot 5-of-21 and committed six turnovers in the third period.
The Pistons held a 27-11 advantage in that stretch and also a 16-7 rebounding edge despite taking an identical number of shots.
"We've been good in stretches, especially when we have two bigs on the floor," Pistons coach Michael Curry said. "One thing with our small lineup that we usually start, we give up that inside presence.
"When they attacked today and they got around Amir or Sheed, the other was there to protect the basket. They also didn't attack the paint as hard."
Detroit recorded a 12-0 run in that quarter and built the lead to 72-53 on Prince's second-chance basket late in the quarter.
Being held to 30 percent shooting - also a season low - the Bucks never mounted a threat despite holding Detroit to 14 points in the final period.
"Some of the things we were doing in the first half came back to haunt us there," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "It almost seemed as soon as they started getting a little spurt and playing better, we were done."
Andrew Bogut scored 12 points in the second quarter - including eight straight - after failing to tally in the first.
He finished the half with 12 points and eight rebounds, though Detroit still led by a 46-44 ledger at intermission. Bogut finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"It's a bit discouraging to lose at home, but we've had one bad game out of the last six or seven home games," Bogut said. "That's no excuse. We are going to play two games now that we are not supposed to win on paper, but we just have to go out there and see how it goes."
The Bucks had games at San Antonio and Houston on the immediate horizon, while the Pistons were preparing for Orlando.
Iverson finished with 18 points, followed by Wallace and Rodney Stuckey with 16 apiece. Johnson scored just eight, but his presence was felt throughout.
"Going down the stretch, that's what we're definitely going to need, guys that come off the bench and in this case, start," Iverson said. "Some nights, the starters are going to come out and be flat and not be able to get it done on both ends of the floor. We'll need guys to be that spark."
Iverson and Wallace each had 10 points at halftime, but the duo shot 6-of-19 in the first half, however.
Bogut and Michael Redd were similarly struggling at a combined 6-of-18. Redd finished with only four points - the third time he has finished a game with six or fewer points in December.
Redd had been saddled with similar circumstances just three times in the previous four seasons.
Skiles pulled his starters off the floor for the majority of the fourth quarter.
"Because I'm putting the other guys in doesn't mean I'm giving up on the game," Skiles said. "I still intend to win the game. It can be very confusing on certain nights of why certain guys just don't have it, but it does happen in the NBA.
"My experience is that you shuffle the deck and go to other guys and see if you can't steal a game."
Milwaukee's previous season-low offensive output was 79 points - a win over Charlotte on November 22.
Iverson led his team's charge in the first quarter with 10 points, giving the Pistons a 27-21 lead after 12 minutes. Detroit opened a 17-11 rebounding edge in the period.
"The way (the Bucks) have been playing lately and to hold them to 30 percent shooting ... that's how well we played on the defensive end," Iverson said.
Hamilton left Friday's game against Oklahoma City early and did not return. His availability for Monday's game against the Magic was unclear.
MILWAUKEE 76 FINAL
Dec 27 10:55 PM
MILWAUKEE 55 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 27 10:17 PM
MILWAUKEE 44 HALFTIME
Dec 27 9:35 PM
MILWAUKEE 21 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 27 9:05 PM
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