AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- If anybody thought Ben Wallace was going to just play out the string this season with the Pistons, they had better reconsider.
That's not at all how it's working out.
Wallace has been rejuvenated by his return to Detroit, providing the same contributions that helped the Pistons win the 2004 championship and nearly repeat a year later.
In Sunday's 88-81 victory over Philadelphia, Wallace only scored two points, but finished 16 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Seven of his rebounds came on the offensive glass, helping the Pistons grab a season-high 21.
"I knew Ben was going to be an asset this season because he'd be able to teach our bigs," Pistons coach John Kuester said. "I never imagined he could have this kind of impact on the court. This is the old Ben Wallace again, and he's making Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox better just by showing them what it is possible to do."
Kuester joked that Wallace's comeback has been fueled entirely by his coaching, but Ben Gordon has a different opinion.
"This is where Ben feels like home," said Gordon, who also played with Wallace on the Bulls. "When he came to Chicago, it never seemed like he felt that way, and I don't think it happened for him in Cleveland, either. He's been incredible for us this year."
"This was big for us -- any game we can win without Tay and Rip is huge," Gordon said. "It was tied with a few minutes left, and we could have easily panicked, but we showed some poise and resolve."
Andre Iguodala led Philadelphia with 24 points, but the 76ers missed their last eight field-goal attempts.
"They were sagging in the paint, and I thought we took midrange shots that we will make on a normal basis," said Philadelphia coach Eddie Jordan. "The story of the game was that we could not rebound the basketball. We shot ourselves in the foot with their offensive rebounds and some plays that we didn't finish at the basket."
Detroit led 43-37 after a first half that saw both offenses struggle, and only 20 offensive rebounds -- 13 of them by the Pistons -- allowed the teams to reach 80 combined points. Iguodala had 15 in the half for Philadelphia, while Gordon had 10 for Detroit.
The 76ers tied the game early in the second half, but Gordon and rookie Jonas Jerebko led a surge that put Detroit ahead by as many as nine. Jerebko and fellow rookie Austin Daye combined for 17 points and seven rebounds.
"You have to like the way our rookies have performed this early -- they are both going to be good players," Kuester said. "So is DeJuan Summers, once he gets a chance to get some minutes."
Rodney Stuckey's late jumper put the Pistons ahead 64-59 going into the fourth, but Marreese Speights' put-back dunk gave the 76ers their first lead with 7:22 to play. After Stuckey made a free throw, Iguodala hit a 3-pointer to give Philadelphia a three-point edge.
Wallace helped Detroit's last surge with two blocks and another offensive rebound, and Villanueva's runner gave the Pistons an 81-77 lead with 3:09 left. Philadelphia did not score a field goal for the final 6 minutes.
"This was one of those games where we just couldn't get anything going," said Detroit native Willie Green, who finished with 13 points for the 76ers. "It was one of those games that could have gone either way, but they got too many easy baskets in the paint. We need to do a better job rebounding."
Prince missed his fourth straight game, while Hamilton was out for the sixth time in a row. Pistons coach John Kuester does not expect either to return within the next week. ... Speights left the game with 4:50 to play after banging knees with a Pistons player under the basket, but said after the game that he was fine. ... The Pistons had 19 offensive rebounds in the first three quarters, while the 76ers had only 17 defensive boards in the same period.
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