93 - 85 Final
  for this game

Hamilton returns to lineup; Pistons return to form

Feb 28, 2009 - 5:28 PM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Richard Hamilton got his wish, found his shot and helped the Detroit Pistons put an end to an embarrassing three-week stretch.

In his return to the starting lineup, Hamilton dropped in 31 points as the Pistons snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 93-85 road upset over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

The veteran sharpshooter had been relegated to coming off the bench for the last two months and had recently expressed his displeasure at the results - a 4-12 record over the last 16 contests. But that changed Friday, as Hamilton was re-inserted into the lineup by head coach Michael Curry.

"It feels good because it's what I'm used to and I want to help us win," Hamilton said. "It was great to get back out there and contribute like that."

Of course, Hamilton's re-admittance to the starting rotation will come at the expense of All-Star Allen Iverson, who will now come off the bench for the first time in his career. In this one, however, he wasn't available, as he was undergoing tests on his ailing back, which he injured early in Wednesday's loss to the New Orleans Hornets.

"Losing eight games in a row, we had to try something," Pistons coach Michael Curry said. "Iverson wasn't available to play tonight, but (Hamilton) was going to start either way. He responded well and played an outstanding game for us."

The result this time was the team's first win since February 7.

"We came in and beat a great team," Hamilton said. "We know that we're still a playoff team, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Hamilton helped the Pistons erase an eight-point halftime deficit in the third quarter, pulling up for an 18-footer to spark a 20-6 run that opened up a 63-57 edge for Detroit. Rodney Stuckey scored seven points during the spurt, including a three-point play that put his club on top for good.

"They controlled the tempo of the game," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We got it going for a while in the second quarter, but after that they had control of the tempo and slowed the game down the rest of the way, keeping the score down in the eighties."

The Magic surged back in the final session. Their bread-and-butter - the 3-point shot - had escaped them much of the night, but they finally got one to go with just over nine minutes to play, as Mickael Pietrus connected to cut the deficit to 75-74.

Stuckey responded with a driving layup on the ensuing possession, but Courtney Lee matched him on the other end to keep Orlando within a point.

But Hamilton came up big again, answering with a jumper and a layup to extend the lead to five as the Pistons held on. The 31-year-old guard finished 11-of-18 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line as Detroit got back to within a game of the .500 mark.

"He's just a great player and we couldn't stop him," Orlando guard Rafer Alston said. "You just have to understand what happened tonight, put it behind you, and get ready for tomorrow."

Friday's ballgame was also a return to form for Stuckey, who scored 22 points - his first 20-point outing since January 14.

"When Allen wasn't able to play and Rip came back into the starting lineup, we said we just have to come out and play basketball," Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince said. "We were without our best scorer, but at the same time we have to feed off of each other."

The Magic, meanwhile, continue to be hit-or-miss as they try to regroup from the season-ending injury to All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson. His replacement, Alston, posted 14 points and six assists, but the team hit just 4-of-19 from the arc. The Magic were limited to their lowest point total since a matching 85-point showing in a blowout loss to New Orleans on February 18 - just before the Alston trade.

Dwight Howard collected 21 points and 13 boards, but the Magic - the No. 3 rebounding team in the NBA - were outrebounded, 38-28, in the loss.

"They know they can just take it to us on the glass, and they beat us like a kid getting bullied on the playground," Van Gundy said. "They always play us extra tough, and we weren't tough enough to beat them."