Pistons honor Wallace, dump 76ers
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — While the playoff-bound Philadelphia 76ers rested a handful of their regulars, the Detroit Pistons’ season finale was a tale of two Bens.
Reserve guard Ben Gordon poured in 26 points, including eight 3-pointers, as the Pistons cruised to a 108-86 victory over the 76ers at The Palace on Thursday night. Center Ben Wallace, playing perhaps the final game of his career, added seven points and 12 rebounds.
“We just wanted to come out and honor Body (Wallace),” said Gordon, who made seven 3-pointers in the second quarter as the Pistons tied an NBA record with 11 in the quarter. “This might be his last game, and we all felt inspired tonight. My teammates did a good job of finding me, especially in that second quarter. I was able to make a lot of shots. It was a lot of fun.”
The loss ensures the 76ers, who entered with a four-game winning streak, will be the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Philadelphia will play a best-of-seven series against top-seeded Chicago, beginning Saturday.
“We know it’s going to be a tough series,” said center Spencer Hawes, who led the Sixers with 16 points and added seven rebounds. “They’ve been arguably the best team in the league all year long. We know we have a big challenge ahead of us, but we look forward to it.”
The Sixers led the Atlantic Division a majority of the season but faltered after a 20-9 start, finishing 35-31. Coach Doug Collins believes his team learned from adversity.
“I feel we’re a better team now than we were when we were 20-9,” he said. “Navigating through the ups and downs of the season, the highs and lows, the injuries, the five-game losing streak, all the stuff we had to go through, I think we are better for it on the other side. I was really pleased the way our guys ended the year.”
Guard Rodney Stuckey added 13 points for the Pistons, while forward Charlie Villanueva chipped in 11. Detroit wound up 25-41, though it had a .500 record after a 4-20 start.
The Pistons took over midway through the first quarter and led by as much as 28 while preventing Philadelphia from sweeping the four-game season series.
Villanueva made three 3-pointers during the record-tying flurry. Cleveland made 11 3-pointers in a quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 31, 2010, and Milwaukee also had 11 3-pointers in a quarter against Phoenix on March 28, 2006.
With its playoff opener just two days away, Philadelphia sat three starters — forwards Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand and guard Jrue Holiday — and its top two reserves, leading scorer Louis Williams and third-leading scorer Thaddeus Young. The Sixers’ revamped lineup included second-year forward Craig Brackins, who made his first career start.
Wallace, a 16-year veteran and four-time Defensive Player of the Year, made his first start since Jan. 31. In honor of the team’s elder statesman, every Pistons player wore a blue headband like the one Wallace typically wears. During the first television timeout, highlights of Wallace’s career were shown on the scoreboard, and he received a standing ovation from fans and players on both teams.
“It’s one of those things I’ve got to think about a little bit,” Wallace, 37, said of his retirement plans. “It’s tough to walk away from the game when you’ve got so many people who keep asking you to come back. Do I think it’s time for me to retire? Yeah. But people are asking me to come back, so obviously they see something in me that I really don’t see in myself right now. But we all feel good to be wanted.”
NOTES: Iguodala, Brand and Young did not travel with the team to Milwaukee Wednesday but rejoined their teammates Thursday night, so they could fly together to their playoff destination. … The Sixers lost to Miami in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, 4-1. … The Pistons finished below .500 for the fourth consecutive season after making the Eastern Conference finals six consecutive years. “I think we better make the playoffs,” owner Tom Gores said of his goal for next season…. Greg Monroe is the fifth Detroit player since the 1994-95 season to have at least 1,000 points and 600 rebounds, joining Grant Hill, Otis Thorpe, Rasheed Wallace and the late Bison Dele. He had eight points and seven rebounds Thursday.