NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Rodney Stuckey returned to the lineup and helped the Detroit Pistons shake their turnover problems.
Stuckey scored 28 points, part of a crisp offensive performance by Detroit in its 94-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. The Pistons led by 16 in the third quarter then held on to win when Raymond Felton lost the ball near midcourt in the final seconds.
Detroit turned the ball over 25 times in a loss to Memphis on Friday night. The Pistons reduced that number to 11 on Saturday and looked more comfortable with Stuckey in the backcourt alongside rookie Brandon Knight. Both players are capable of playing point guard.
“We can play off of each other,” Knight said. “It’s definitely good having two ball handlers that can both attack and both create for the team.”
Stuckey had been averaging only 11.3 points, but he was aggressive from the start after missing the previous game with a groin injury. Detroit was without guard Ben Gordon (left shoulder).
“I was just trying to come out and be aggressive for my team tonight,” Stuckey said. “With the injury, it’s just going to be a nagging thing throughout the whole year.”
The Pistons won for only the second time in 12 games. The Trail Blazers were down three after Felton made two free throws with 37 seconds remaining. Stuckey missed a wild driving attempt, and Portland rebounded and called a timeout with 15.6 seconds left.
Jamal Crawford drove for a layup with 8.4 seconds to go, and Stuckey answered with a pair of free throws.
Detroit fouled Felton at midcourt, preventing Portland from trying a 3-point attempt. He made both free throws, but Stuckey made two of his own with 4.4 seconds left to make it 94-91.
The Pistons were ready to foul Felton again but didn’t have to.
“It was a perfect situation,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “They had no timeouts — had to go the length of the court. It worked out for us.”
Tayshaun Prince added 17 points for Detroit, which led by as many as 16 in the third quarter.
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 25 points, one night after a 33-point, 23-rebound effort against Toronto. Felton had 20 points and nine assists.
The Pistons turned the ball over only four times in the first half. Detroit went on a 21-5 run in the second quarter to take a 47-34 lead. Stuckey scored 16 points in the half and Prince added 12, helping the Pistons to a 54-43 lead at the break.
“You can’t flip a switch in this league. I thought we tried to flip a switch against these guys tonight. That’s not going to work,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “You’ve got to come in here ready to play. Offensively, we didn’t work to establish ourselves inside tonight. We settled for jump shot after jump shot. Not only did we settle for jump shots, but they were contested shots.”
Stuckey’s 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer put Detroit ahead 67-51, but the Trail Blazers finally answered with a 16-2 run, cutting the lead to two on a 3-pointer by Nicolas Batum.
Portland trimmed the deficit to one on several occasions in the fourth, but Detroit responded each time. The Pistons finally gave themselves some breathing room when Greg Monroe tipped in a miss, Jason Maxiell added a putback of his own, and Monroe made two free throws to push it to 87-80 with 3:02 to play.
“You can’t play catch-up every game. That takes a lot out of a team,” Crawford said. “This is a tough one. We definitely let an opportunity go.”
NOTES: Detroit’s Jonas Jerebko left with a bloody face after being caught by Craig Smith’s elbow while the Portland player was going to the basket with 7:46 left. Jerebko was called for a foul on the play and had two stitches on his lower lip. … Portland is off Sunday before playing back-to-back-to-back games against Sacramento, Memphis and Golden State starting Monday.
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