AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Richard Hamilton crossed midcourt, stepped dangerously close to the sideline, then tossed up a wild shot as the first quarter came to an end.
The ball dropped through the basket - giving Hamilton something he could chuckle about toward the end of an unpleasant season.
``I thought I got fouled,' Hamilton said. ``I was looking for the foul, just throwing it up, trying to get three shots. It happened to go in.'
Hamilton scored 23 points, and the Detroit Pistons held off the Indiana Pacers 100-88 on Saturday night. The Pistons went on a 21-3 run during the third quarter to take an 18-point lead. The Pacers cut the lead to six in the fourth quarter, but Hamilton drove for an easy layup, then made a nice pass to Rodney Stuckey for a layup to make it 90-80.
Brandon Rush scored 19 points for the Pacers. Indiana leads Charlotte by one game for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers lost to the struggling Pistons one night after dropping a game to Sacramento, one of the Western Conference's worst teams.
``We just gave away two games in the last two nights to two teams that wanted it more, and just let other teams right back in the hunt,' Indiana forward Danny Granger said. ``We have to step it up and if we don't we will be out of the playoffs.'
Detroit's Charlie Villanueva, benched for the Pistons' loss to Cleveland on Friday, didn't play until the fourth quarter Saturday, but he played that entire period and made all five of his shots to finish with 13 points.
``I was a little shocked. I expected the same amount of time as last game, but at the same time I had to be ready,' Villanueva said. ``We have nine or 10 games left. I'm not really worried about it. Whatever Coach wants to do, I'll back him up.'
Hamilton was benched earlier in the season amid a public falling out with coach John Kuester, but he's been back in the lineup lately and may have been the best player on the court Saturday. He shot 7 of 13 from the field and added six assists, although he also had five turnovers.
``I'm more impressed with his body language defensively,' Kuester said. ``He is engaged in what we are trying to get done. I give him a tremendous amount of credit.'
Hamilton began playing regularly again at the beginning of this month after meeting with his coach.
``It was a big breath of fresh air,' Hamilton said. ``We just went through a period of time where we didn't talk, and I think with the lack of communication, that kind of put everybody on pins and needles. ... We should have never went through it in the first place, but it happened.'
Hamilton's buzzer-beater gave the Pistons a 26-25 lead after one quarter, and they led 48-47 at halftime. The game was tied at 53 when Detroit went on its decisive run. Tayshaun Prince started it with a turnaround from 14 feet, and his 3-pointer pushed the lead into double digits at 65-54. Austin Daye gave Detroit its largest advantage with a 3-pointer from the right wing that made it 74-56.
Indiana scored the next seven points, but Hamilton halted that run with a 3-pointer from the right corner.
``It was our offense - we didn't execute well and we are just struggling with our rhythm right now,' Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. ``Maybe we are tired from the month of March, but it is no excuse. We have to play to win every game.'
Tyler Hansbrough scored 16 points for the Pacers, and Granger contributed 14. Indiana went 7 of 19 on free throws, including a pair of big misses by A.J. Price with 1:54 remaining and the Pacers down by seven.
Stuckey scored 16 points and Prince had 13.
Notes: Former Piston John Salley sat in the front row. ... Indiana G Mike Dunleavy missed the game with a broken left thumb. Vogel said he's having an X-ray Monday. ... Detroit G Tracy McGrady sat out with a sore back and C Ben Wallace was sidelined by a sore left knee. ... Price finished 1 of 6 on free throws. ... The boys' basketball team from Fennville High School, which received national attention following the death of one of its players earlier this month, was in attendance and was given a warm ovation during the second half.
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