SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -Richard Hamilton is back in a comfortable groove, shooting the ball as he did when the Detroit Pistons were among the NBA's elite teams.
Hamilton scored 30 points and Detroit pulled away in the third quarter to defeat the struggling Sacramento Kings 101-89 on Tuesday night.
``He's getting his legs back, that's important,' Pistons coach John Kuester said. ``He's coming off screens well and it's allowing him to get good looks.'
Hamilton severely sprained an ankle in the first game of the season and didn't return until the second week of December. It's taken a while for his game to come around completely.
Averaging 30.5 points in his last four games, he made 12 of 20 shots and hit all five free throws to extend his streak to 51 straight. It was vintage Hamilton, who was running defenders off picks and making mid-range jumpers in frustrating several Kings.
After taking a 12-point lead in halftime, Hamilton keyed a third-quarter effort that hiked the Pistons' advantage to 30 at one point. Hamilton scored the first eight points of the quarter and finished the period with 14 as the Pistons took an 83-58 lead into the fourth.
Injuries to Hamilton and Gordon, who missed a combined 46 games, resulted in the Pistons (21-35) playing poorly for much of the season, which included a miserable 12-game losing streak that lasted an entire month.
Tayshaun Prince scored 22 points for the Pistons, who shot 58 percent in winning their second straight game. Rodney Stuckey had 13 points, while both Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva added 11.
``We had good cohesion at both ends of the court,' said Prince, who scored 10 first-quarter points. ``This has been one of those seasons, it's just unfortunate. We're trying to build on this game, make the best of what we have left in the season.'
Tyreke Evans had 28 points and a career-high 13 assists for the Kings, who have dropped five straight since beating the Pistons in their final game before the All-Star break. Carl Landry scored 18 points in his Sacramento debut after being acquired last week from Houston.
The loss was the 23rd in 27 games for the Kings, a young team that had a surprising 14-16 start this season after having only 17 wins a year ago when they had the NBA's worst record.
It didn't get any better off the court, either. Kings center Spencer Hawes, who has started 42 games this season but has often seen his minutes fluctuate with each game, watched in street clothes for disciplinary reasons, according to head coach Paul Westphal, who wouldn't elaborate on the decision after the game.
In a story in Tuesday's Sacramento Bee, Hawes was openly critical of Westphal's unpredictable allotment of playing time for the entire team. Westphal has used 24 different starting lineups this season and frequently changes his substitution pattern every game.
``I don't know what the situation is (with Hawes),' Evans said. ``But we are all NBA players and we have a job to do and the coach has a job to do.'
Prince scored 12 points and Hamilton had 11 in the opening half when the Pistons pulled away in the second quarter for a 54-42 lead. Evans had 12 points for the Kings, who played a listless second quarter and were outscored 25-16.
``It's a pretty simple story as far as I can see,' Westphal said. ``We couldn't stop Prince or Hamilton. They gave Detroit a lift. At the start of the first half, it was Prince. Start of the second half, it was Hamilton. We never really stopped their shooters from shooting the ball well, we didn't do enough about it.'
NOTES: The Kings waived guard Larry Hughes on Tuesday. Hughes was acquired from the New York Knicks as part of a three-team trade last week and did not appear in a Kings game. ... Kuester's father died Saturday at age 89. Kuester will attend Monday's memorial service in Richmond, Va., and return in time for Tuesday's home game against Boston. ... Detroit won for the second straight time in Sacramento after losing 10 of the previous 11.
The Associated Press News Service
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