AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -The Detroit Pistons have gone through a lot of strange lineup combinations during an injury-plagued season.
Friday night might have had the oddest of them all.
Even though they were reduced to playing 6-foot-10 rookie Jonas Jerebko at point guard and 6-foot-11 Austin Daye at shooting guard, the Pistons beat the New Orleans Hornets 110-104 in overtime.
``I don't think I've played point guard since I was about 15,' said Jerebko, who had a 10-inch height advantage over Chris Paul during their brief matchup. ``I think it went pretty well. I'd rather play the point than play center in this league.'
Jerebko was thrown into the unfamiliar role because Will Bynum (ankle) was injured, Chucky Atkins had fouled out and Rodney Stuckey was struggling. Stuckey, who has been bothered by a knee injury, had just five points in regulation before scoring eight in overtime.
``Rodney didn't feel good out there - he looked exhausted all night - and I wasn't going to put him back in the game,' Detroit coach John Kuester said. ``That's how we ended up with Jonas at the 1 and Austin at the 2.'
Detroit, which was also missing Tayshaun Prince (knee) and Ben Gordon (groin), was carried by two veterans. Richard Hamilton finished with 32 points and 10 assists, both season highs, while Ben Wallace had season bests of 21 rebounds and 13 points.
``Rip's really starting to come back after the injuries,' Kuester said. ``He's a warrior, and how big was Ben Wallace tonight? It looks like he's found the Fountain of Youth again - he was head-and-shoulders above guys on a lot of those rebounds.'
The win was Detroit's second in a row after a 13-game losing streak.
``I don't know what would have happened if we hadn't won that game in Washington,' Jerebko said. ``We needed that one to get our confidence back.'
Paul had 24 points and 14 assists for the Hornets before fouling out and David West scored 25 points, but New Orleans couldn't overcome a 46-34 rebounding deficit. New Orleans finished with just two offensive rebounds, three fewer than Wallace had by himself.
``We never had any extra looks and that made it hard on our offense,' New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said. ``Give the Pistons credit - that's one of their strengths. Ben Wallace was just terrific.'
Detroit led by 18 in the first half but needed Hamilton's buzzer-beating jumper to take a 76-69 lead into the fourth.
``We came out slow as usual, so we had to fight back into the game,' Paul said. ``We gave ourselves a chance, but we've been giving up a lot of offensive rebounds and tonight it bit us.'
New Orleans pulled to 76-75 early in the fourth, but Hamilton answered with a jumper and Darius Songalia missed a layup. Moments later, Songalia was called for a technical after arguing a call, and the free throw gave Detroit an 81-75 lead.
The Hornets took an 83-82 lead on Paul's 3-pointer with 7:50 to play, and were helped when Wallace shot an airball on a free throw that would have tied the game.
The Pistons missed three more free throws, but they still moved out to a 96-94 lead with 1:48 left. Paul missed a tying jumper, and after a Detroit miss, Hamilton stole the ball from Emeka Okafor under the basket.
Stuckey missed a shot, giving New Orleans another chance, and Paul's layup tied the game with 24.9 seconds left. Hamilton missed a game-winning shot with three seconds left and Jerebko's desperate tip hit the rim.
``I told them that I was proud of the way we had played, and that we had five more minutes to win the game,' Kuester said of his post-regulation speech. ``This would have been a tough one to lose, because we played so hard that you wanted to finish it off.'
Stuckey's back-to-back three-point plays gave the Pistons a 106-101 lead, and Detroit still had a 107-104 advantage after Wallace made one of two free throws with 48.6 seconds to go.
``I had two turnovers in overtime and one of Stuckey's and-ones was because I fell asleep,' Paul said. ``I take responsibility for that.'
West turned the ball over, and Hamilton made three of four free throws to clinch it.
NOTES: Detroit has lost 79 games to injury this season ... Michigan native Morris Peterson (knee and back) did not dress for New Orleans. ... Daye outscored Paul and Peja Stojakovic 12-10 in the first half. ... Both teams play again Saturday after playing 53 minutes on Friday - Detroit hosts New York and the Hornets are at Indiana.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved