AUBURN HILLS (AP) – Ben Gordon came into the Detroit Pistons’ season finale with one goal in mind: He wanted to help his teammates send Ben Wallace off in style.
Gordon did that and more, hitting a franchise-record seven 3-pointers in the second quarter and finished with 26 points as the Pistons routed the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 108-86 Thursday night.
“We wanted to go out there and honor Body, just in case this is his last game,” Gordon said. “We were extra inspired and we went out there and hit our shots. It’s going to be tough without him, because he is the epitome of the consummate professional.”
The night was filled with tributes to Wallace, who announced his retirement earlier in the season.
“Ben Wallace has had an incredible career,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “To be undrafted, but to come through with the career he’s had, including bringing Detroit a championship, that’s an amazing testimony to his work ethic. If this was his last game, it was an honor to be a part of it.”
Wallace, who set an NBA record for games by an undrafted player, finished with seven points and a season-high 12 rebounds. He left the game late in the third quarter, but checked back in for the final 90 seconds as the crowd chanted “We Want Ben!”
“That was a crazy moment,” he said, fighting back emotions. “Even in my heyday, it took a couple minutes for me to get warmed up, but the fans here have always supported me, and if they wanted me in the game, I was going into the game.”
The four-time Defensive Player of the Year, though, left a crack in the door for a 17th season.
“Do I think it is time to retire? Yes, I do,” he said. “But it is harder to walk away when so many people in the game are asking you to come back. I’m going to take some time and think about it.”
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank has made it clear that he’s not going to try to influence Wallace’s decision, but he’d be happy to have him back in the fall.
“It hasn’t just been an honor to coach him, it has been an honor to watch him every day,” Frank said. “This is a man who was undrafted, originally projected as a 2-guard and made himself into one of the great defensive post players of all time. If this is the end, I’m glad he went out the way he did. He’s a special player.”
Philadelphia entered the game with a mathematical chance at the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed, but didn’t make much of an effort. Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams all sat out the game in order to rest for Saturday’s postseason opener against Chicago.
“We’re going to be playing a very, very tough team in Chicago,” Collins said. “They are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, and Derrick Rose, when healthy, is an incredible point guard.”
Spencer Hawes led the 76ers with 16, while Jodie Meeks had 15.
“Tonight was about trying to get the guys who were playing into a comfort zone and to tune some things up,” Hawes said. “Coach has done a good job of managing our players all season, and we trusted him with his decisions tonight.”
The Pistons already held a comfortable 26-15 lead after the first quarter, but blew the game open in the second. Detroit tied an NBA record with 11 3-pointers in the quarter, including a franchise-record seven from Gordon, and led 65-43 at the intermission.
Gordon hit another long jumper at the end of the third period – his first 2-point shot of the game – to give the Pistons a 86-66 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes.
“I’m proud of our guys for the way they played tonight, and I’m proud that we played .500 ball after a 4-20 start,” Franks said. “A lot of times, these last games turn into something like And-1 ball, but we went out and did our jobs.”
NOTES: Wallace finished with 529 double-rebound games. He is the Pistons’ career blocks leader, second in steals and third in rebounds. … All of the Pistons players wore Wallace’s trademark blue headband. … Brand, Iguodala and Young arrived at the arena just before game time. They didn’t make the trip to Milwaukee for Wednesday’s game, but joined the team in Detroit. Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said before the game it was too risky leaving the trio at home, since the 76ers didn’t know if they would open the playoffs in Chicago or Miami.
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