CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Stephen Jackson showed his competitive spirit Tuesday night by playing through painful back spasms.
Yet as he winced while gingerly putting on his dress shirt after his Charlotte Bobcats beat the undermanned Detroit Pistons 88-76, Jackson declared that teammate Gerald Wallace plays just as hard as him.
"But with more athleticism," Jackson said.
Wallace had 29 points and 12 rebounds in his return after a concussion scare, continuing perhaps his best season as a pro as the Bobcats snapped a three-game losing streak.
"Gerald is a monster, man," Jackson said. "I know if I had to vote for anybody in the All-Star [game], with the year he's having he definitely needs to be there.
"I love him because of how hard he plays."
His energy was too much for the Pistons, who lost their fifth straight as they again had 52 points a game in street clothes, with Richard Hamilton (hamstring), Tayshaun Prince (back) and Ben Gordon (ankle) sidelined.
Gordon thought on Monday that he was close to returning, but said his ankle "didn't feel right" after a workout and he missed his eighth straight game.
"I just couldn't move out there really, man," said Villanueva, who shot 2 for 8. "I couldn't really take off. It's frustrating."
Wallace missed Sunday's loss to New York after getting elbowed in the face a night earlier. The Bobcats don't think he sustained what would be his fifth concussion as a pro, and he passed a series of tests over the past two days to get cleared to return.
The 6-foot-7 Wallace, second only to Orlando's Dwight Howard in rebounds per game, saw no drop-off there and had a big game from 3-point range.
Wallace shot 4 of 6 on 3s, including a 23-footer early in the second half to put Charlotte up 60-39. The Pistons got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way and Charlotte finished 9 of 18 from long range ahead of a three-day break.
"It makes Christmas a whole lot better right now," Wallace said.
Jackson added 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists two nights after leaving the Knicks loss in the third quarter. He joked at shootaround that he was going to "take some Advil and play" and was clearly in pain. Running into a screen in the third quarter made it worse.
"He's courageous, man," Wallace said. "I've had back spasms and I don't know how he did it. ... I wouldn't have been able to do it."
Each time Jackson came out he got a heat pad wrapped around his lower back. He had to be helped by a trainer to sit down in the second quarter and sat on a large exercise ball in the third. But it didn't seem to slow him on the floor
Jackson's driving layup and his feed to Nazr Mohammed for a dunk keyed an 18-5 run to start the second quarter that put Charlotte ahead 41-24. Wallace had 19 points at halftime and the Bobcats led 52-36, spoiling Pistons coach John Kuester's return to North Carolina.
Kuester spent time before tip-off chatting with his former boss, Charlotte coach Larry Brown, and talking up his old school. But Kuester, an assistant under Brown on Detroit's 2004 NBA championship team, had an overmatched roster.
He hit nine of 20 shots, but Will Bynum (12 points) was the only other player in double figures for Detroit, which had won four straight in Charlotte.
"It's not fun losing, and it does play on you a little bit," Kuester said. "But these guys are going to bounce back."
The Bobcats were without guard Flip Murray, who has a sprained right ankle, then lost struggling center Tyson Chandler to a sprained left foot in the third quarter.
Ex-Piston Mohammed filled in well in the middle with 12 points and nine rebounds. But the night belonged to Wallace.
"He's shooting the ball better. He gives you effort," Brown said. "He doesn't seek shots. He takes what's there. He was phenomenal."
An X-ray on Chandler ruled out a fractured foot. "I'm sure it'll feel better soon," he said. ... Brown was talking to reporters after shootaround when Hamilton walked by. "Greatest coach of all-time right there," Hamilton said. ... Brown on all the Pistons' injuries: "I look at it as a good thing. They're developing the young guys and when they come back they're going to be off and running."