Richard Hamilton’s first game as a reserve for the Detroit Pistons was supposed to be the story of the night.
Tayshaun Prince had other plans. Prince scored 23 of his 25 points in the second and third quarters, helping the Pistons pull away from the Toronto Raptors in a 95-76 win Wednesday night.
The lanky forward has often been overlooked in his seven seasons in Detroit, where he has been surrounded by all-stars. But his ability to be a shutdown defender and make an array of shots has made him an unsung contributor.
“I call him the ‘Quiet Assassin’ because he gets the job done quietly,” teammate Jason Maxiell said. “People may forget about him, but he gets the job done.”
Prince’s chance to excel improved when coach Michael Curry chose to change the lineup, putting Hamilton on the bench and Amir Johnson at power forward.
Those moves led to Prince going back to small forward.
“That’s his natural position and he’s just a really good player,” said Toronto’s Chris Bosh, who scored 19 points. “It’s always tough to match up with him whether he’s at (small forward) or (power forward) because he’s so versatile.
“He plays great defence, and he was knocking down his jumper today. He did a fantastic job.”
In typical fashion, Prince just shrugged off the accolades.
“When the opportunities present themselves on offence and you get into a rhythm, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” Prince said. “When you have so many talented guys that make plays, we tend to go to the guys in rhythm.”
Hamilton struggled to find his groove in his first game off the bench with the Pistons after starting 611 games for them, including six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals and an NBA title in 2004.
“It’s a new challenge,” he said.
Hamilton scored seven points in his first game off the bench since Feb. 1, 2002, when he was playing for the Washington Wizards. The following off-season, they traded him to Detroit for Jerry Stackhouse.
“It’s going to take him a little time to get his rhythm, playing in that type of role,” Curry said. “But I think he’s going to be great in it and I think we’re going to be better because of it.”
Toronto is searching for ways to get better, but has lost seven straight games and 28 overall. Only the Wizards have lost more in the conference.
“We need to do a better job of fighting through adversity,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “I don’t know why, but when we get down, we seem to lose confidence and hang our heads a little.”
Andrea Bargnani scored 16 points for the Raptors and Jermaine O’Neal had 11 points, playing for just the second time in 13 games. O’Neal has been slowed by a sore right knee.
“We didn’t move the ball,” Bosh said. “We were just standing and looking and trying to force things.”
Prince led a balanced attack for the Pistons, who won their second in a row after losing five consecutive games.
Rodney Stuckey scored 17 points, Maxiell had season highs in points (16) and rebounds (11), Iverson scored 11 and reserve Antonio McDyess had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“Maxiell just worked harder than we did,” Triano said.
The slumping Raptors got off to a solid start, leading 22-17 after the first quarter and trailing by three at halftime. Prince scored 11 in the second quarter as Detroit outscored Toronto by eight.
Prince helped the Pistons dominate in the third, scoring 12 points to help them outscore Toronto 30-19.
That gave Detroit a cushion big enough to set up an easy fourth quarter in which Prince watched.
“It felt good taking the fourth quarter off,” Prince said. “That’s something we haven’t done in a while. Especially being banged-up, it was nice to have that time off.”
The Pistons won by double digits for the first time since Dec. 27, when they beat Milwaukee 87-76.
Notes: Raptors F Kris Humphries is out indefinitely with a broken leg. His right fibula was kicked Sunday against Phoenix. … The Pistons had a 403-208 record with Hamilton in the starting lineup, leaning on his scoring average of 19 points. … Toronto was also without G Jose Calderon (right hamstring sprain). … Prince was two points away from matching his season high. … Pistons athletic trainer Mike Abdenour, in his 30th season with the team, missed the game after having knee surgery. “He missed his first game – probably ever,” Curry said. “We forced him to stay home.”