Maxiell excels off bench, provides spark as Pistons smash Nets

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups got into a groove on Sunday night -- at the New Jersey Nets' expense.

Billups and Hamilton, both hampered by injuries in the first month of the season, combined for 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting in the Pistons' 118-95 victory.

"It's fun to play like this," said Billups, who had 18 points and nine assists. "We're moving the ball well, and that's the key for us."

Hamilton sat out most of the preseason with an ankle injury, then missed the first two games of the regular season while attending the birth of his son.

He's gone eight straight games without reaching 20 points, but he felt as if he was closer against New Jersey, getting 19 before sitting out the final nine minutes.

"I was finally able to get into a rhythm," Hamilton said. "Coach left me out there to figure things out, and that helped a lot."

Detroit also got a boost from Jason Maxiell, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds to help the Pistons win for the sixth time in seven games, and beat the Nets for the fifth straight time.

Maxiell struggled while replacing Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess in the starting lineup, but has averaged 13.3 points and 10 rebounds as a reserve in the last three games.

"I think Maxie is better coming off the bench, because the refs tend to call games tight early, and he was picking up early fouls," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Now he's in there a little later, and he's able to be more aggressive."

The Nets agreed that Maxiell's physical style blew open what had been a close game.

"He changed things," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "Look at the extra possessions game gave them in the first and second quarters. The energy he brought changed the whole tempo."

Vince Carter, back in the starting lineup, led New Jersey with 22 points, and Richard Jefferson added 21. Jason Kidd had a season-best 16 assists.

"We aren't as good as Detroit," Kidd said. "We were playing against a very good team, and we didn't have any answers. It seemed like they made every shot, or if they didn't, they got the offensive rebounds and put that in."

The game was tied at 27 after a quarter, but Maxiell had 12 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes and Detroit built a 54-44 halftime lead.

"That's what we depend on Max to do -- come in and play the way he plays," Billups said. "He blocks shots and gets rebounds and he brings so much energy."

Detroit hit its first seven shots of the third quarter, including 3-pointers by Billups and Wallace, to take a 70-54 lead. Carter kept scoring, finishing with 13 points in the period, but didn't get enough help from the rest of the Nets.

The Pistons led 87-67 at quarter's end and cruised to the lopsided victory.

"We made some coverage mistakes in the third, and they made us pay," Frank said. "We finally started getting an offensive rhythm, but we couldn't get any stops."

Game notes
New Jersey led 27-22 with 1:49 left in the first quarter, but was outscored 96-68 in the rest of the game. ... Maxiell was a point short of a career high. ... All 12 Pistons scored, as did all 10 Nets that played. ... Frank was called for a technical for arguing a third-quarter call, and New Jersey was also given two defensive three-second technicals.