There have been several times in Zach Randolph’s career that he has been rumored to be joining the Detroit Pistons.
The former Michigan State star showed again Wednesday night why the Pistons have wanted him.
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Randolph finished with 34 points and 17 rebounds — his ninth career double-double against the Pistons and his third 30-point game at the Palace of Auburn Hills — and his Memphis Grizzlies beat Detroit 107-99.
“Z-Bo makes it easy for us,” said Rudy Gay, who added 26 points. “He’s a big mismatch, because he’s such a load down low. He gets rebounds and he is always getting himself in position to score.”
Randolph had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the second half as Memphis scored 64 points to rally for the victory.
“We had a real sense of urgency in the second half,” Randolph said. “We got stops and we got out in transition. We’ve got to come out more focused, but once we started playing everyone chipped in.”
The Pistons debuted a new starting lineup — and benched Richard Hamilton. Ben Wallace (ankle) missed the game and was replaced by rookie Greg Monroe, while Tracy McGrady and Chris Wilcox came in for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
Hamilton, reported to be part of the Carmelo Anthony trade negotiations between Denver, New Jersey and Detroit, said it was one of the strangest nights of his career.
“I think that’s the first time in my career that I’ve put on my jersey and didn’t play,” he said. “No one warned me about it. I was completely surprised. Do I think it was a level of disrespect or unfair or anything like that? I’ll leave that to y’all.”
Tayshaun Prince, whose locker adjoins Hamilton’s, chipped in with his own opinion.
“Buffoonery,” he said to the media surrounding Hamilton. “Do you all know what that means?”
Hamilton said the DNP-CD — his first since being rested for the playoffs in the last game of the 2008-09 regular season — hadn’t changed his feelings about a possible trade.
“I can’t control that, just like I can’t control my playing time,” he said. “I’m just going to keep doing the same thing I’ve done for nine years — get ready to play for the Pistons. If they don’t play me, or they trade me, there’s nothing I can do about that.”
Pistons coach John Kuester said that Hamilton wasn’t held out because the trade was imminent.
“Don’t read anything into that,” he said. “We shortened the rotation and changed the lineup. That’s it.”
Gordon had 25 points, all in the second half, for the Pistons, while Monroe had his fourth consecutive double-double, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Memphis, which snapped a two-game losing streak, also got nine assists from Mike Conley.
“We started slow, and this game could have gotten out of hand,” Gay said. “We had to get going, because any game after a loss is a big game.”
Detroit’s new-look lineup started quickly, building a 21-7 lead, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Memphis was within 46-43 at halftime, and took over after the break.
Memphis came into the game as one of the league’s best third-quarter teams, while Detroit is last, so it wasn’t surprising that the Grizzlies dominated the period. They shot 62 percent in the quarter to the Pistons’ 33 percent, and took a 73-64 lead into the fourth.
“The third period ended up hurting us again,” Kuester said. “They were much more aggressive. Randolph went to the line 17 times, and he was very aggressive with the basketball.”
Gordon hit two 3-pointers late in the third, his first points of the game, then scored Detroit’s first six points of the fourth.
The Grizzlies moved their lead back into double figures, but Gordon’s three-point play made it 95-89 with 1:37 left. The Pistons, though, gave up easy layups on the next two Memphis possessions, ending their threat of getting back into the game.
“Obviously, Ben Gordon got hot — I think he scored 19 points in the fourth quarter — and we had to stave that off,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “You have to make plays down the stretch, get stops, and hit your free throws.”
Tony Allen (knee) missed the game, and was replaced by Sam Young. … Randolph had his third 30-15 game of the season. … McGrady, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds, declined comment after the game. … Monroe became the first Pistons rookie with four consecutive double-doubles since Terry Tyler in 1978.
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