3:30 PM ET, March 18, 2007
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Richard Hamilton has played a lot of basketball in his life, and almost all of it has gone better than Sunday.
In a nationally televised game between the top teams from the Eastern and Western conferences, Hamilton missed five fourth-quarter free throws before ending the game on the Detroit Pistons bench, bleeding heavily from a cut inflicted by one of his teammates.
Richard Hamilton missed five of six free throws during an eight-minute span of the fourth quarter in the Pistons' 92-88 loss to the Mavericks. It was the first time in his eight seasons in the NBA that Hamilton missed five FTAs in one quarter (and only the third time that he missed as many as five in one game). Detroit led by four points when Hamilton's shooting eye betrayed him.
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Adding insult to injury, the Pistons lost 92-88 to the Dallas Mavericks to end their five-game winning streak.
"It was crazy," said Hamilton, who came into the game shooting 87.1 percent from the line. "I never expect to miss back-to-back free throws twice in a row. That's crazy to me."
Hamilton talked after getting three stitches over his left eye thanks to a collision with teammate Chris Webber's elbow. His trademark mask protected his nose, but dug into his eyelid.
"He's going to be fine," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "I'm more worried about his free throws than his eye."
Detroit went 2-for-8 from the line in the fourth and hit only eight of 20 shots from the floor.
"Hopefully, we're going to see that team in the finals, so we wanted to see some things tonight," Saunders said. "We had the chances we wanted. We just didn't convert them."
Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points, including 21 in the second half, to help Dallas avenge a 92-82 home loss to the Pistons on Dec. 7. Nowitzki hit nine of 12 shots in the final 24 minutes after going 2-for-8 in the first half.
"I had good looks, but I had a couple go in and out, so I wanted to stay aggressive," he said. "My team has a lot of confidence in my ability, so I just hung with it."
Detroit was coming off its first 5-0 West Coast trip in 15 years, but played without All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups, who injured his groin in Friday's win at Phoenix.
"Obviously, that helped us," Nowitzki said. "He's probably their MVP and he's one of the greatest clutch shooters in the league."
Ronald Murray scored 18 points to lead six Pistons in double figures, but Detroit had only one other player score more than 13. With Billups and Lindsey Hunter (drug suspension) out, the Pistons didn't have much depth.
"When they went small in the fourth, I looked over at the bench, and there weren't a lot of small guys over there," Saunders said.
The Pistons led 73-69 early in the fourth, but the Mavericks answered with a 9-0 run that included a three-point play by former Piston Jerry Stackhouse.
Detroit tied the game at 81 when Erick Dampier was called for a flagrant foul after shoving Hamilton in the back on a fast-break dunk attempt and Hamilton split the free throws. Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Hamilton then missed another two free throws -- dropping him to 2-for-7 in the quarter.
"When Rip missed those two, you could feel all the air go out of us," Saunders said.
That let Dallas take an 85-81 lead on two Jason Terry jumpers. After a Detroit miss, Hamilton fouled the player Detroit traded to get him, and Stackhouse hit two free throws to make it a six-point game with 1:35 left.
"This is a hell of a win," Stackhouse said. "We've got a long trip ahead of us, and we need to get some momentum from this."
After Webber missed a free throw on a potential three-point play, Nowitzki iced the game with a long 3-pointer.
"We didn't have much time on the shot clock, so I just turned around and shot," he said. "Sometimes those go in and sometimes they don't."
The Pistons led 50-46 at the half, despite failing to pull down a single offensive rebound. Antonio McDyess had 13 points in the first half off the bench, while Devin Harris and Josh Howard combined for 23 for Dallas.
Dallas, though, scored the first seven points of the third, including five from Nowitzki.
The teams traded the lead until the Pistons turned steals into back-to-back fast-break baskets and a 69-67 lead going into the fourth.
Hamilton picked up his 12th technical foul after arguing a first-quarter call. He will get an automatic one-game suspension if he reaches 16 for the season. ... Saunders said before the game that Billups could have played, but the team wanted to be cautious to avoid aggravating what appears to be a minor injury. ... Detroit had eight offensive rebounds in the second half after the first-half drought.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||32-65 (.492)||36-78 (.462)|
|3PM-3PA||4-11 (.364)||3-13 (.231)|
|FTM-FTA||24-29 (.828)||13-21 (.619)|
|Fast Break Points||7||12|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||21 (1/1)||22 (1/0)|