AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Detroit’s newest starting lineup worked about as well as the previous 18, so coach John Kuester turned to his backups for a fourth-quarter rally.
Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox and Will Bynum were up to the challenge.
Villanueva scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Wilcox threw down a one-handed dunk off a missed shot with 53 seconds left, helping the Pistons come back from an 11-point deficit for a 99-95 win over the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Bynum had five points and five assists in the fourth — after sitting out the first three periods.
“We’ve been communicating with our guys, telling them all the time that you have to be ready,” Kuester said. “Will hadn’t played … and he came in and we need him and he was phenomenal.”
Carmelo Anthony scored only six points for New York and missed all five of his shots in the fourth. After Wilcox’s dunk gave Detroit a two-point lead, Anthony drove past Tayshaun Prince, but Wilcox was there defensively to force a missed shot.
After Bynum missed on the Pistons’ next possession, Wilcox helped keep the ball alive, and Detroit came up with it. Bynum made two free throws with 11 seconds left for the final margin.
The Knicks have lost four of five and appear likely to finish sixth or seventh in the Eastern Conference. The loss to the lowly Pistons won’t help.
“They’re a pretty good ball team, but they’re not in the playoff hunt. We are,” New York’s Amare Stoudemire said. “We’re trying to get better seeding, so to lose tonight is definitely not a proud moment for us.”
Anthony finished 2 of 12 from the field and walked off toward the team bus after the game while reporters spoke with teammate Chauncey Billups.
“He just really didn’t get a lot of opportunities at the basket,” Billups said. “They denied him, they fronted him when he tried to take them down to his sweet spot, they were bringing a guy over playing behind him and he was just getting a lot of attention.”
Anthony tried to post up the smaller Rodney Stuckey during the fourth quarter, to no avail.
Detroit’s Richard Hamilton missed the game because of the death of his grandfather, and the Pistons started an odd lineup in his absence. Detroit’s backcourt of 6-foot-8 Tracy McGrady and 6-11 Austin Daye was the tallest to start a game in the NBA since at least 1986-87, according to STATS, LLC.
It was the 19th different starting lineup this season for the Pistons, who have had trouble finding many combinations that work.
Trailing 78-70 after three quarters, Kuester started the fourth with five reserves in the game. He made only one substitution the entire period, putting Prince — a starter — back in for the final 1:40.
Detroit trailed 81-70 early in the fourth before going on a 19-5 run. Villanueva made three 3-pointers during that stretch, and Bynum capped the run with a reverse layup and then a free throw moments later to put the Pistons ahead 89-86.
The Knicks moved back ahead, but Detroit tied it when Billups missed an outside shot, and Stuckey beat the Knicks down the court for a layup to make it 95-all.
Wilcox finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, one of six Pistons in double figures. Stoudemire and Toney Douglas scored 20 points apiece for New York.
Billups scored 12 points against his former team but turned the ball over eight times.
Detroit scored eight straight points early in the third quarter to take a 63-55 lead, but after Stoudemire and Prince traded baskets, the Knicks went on a 17-0 run. Billups scored the first seven points, then Stoudemire put New York ahead with a powerful one-handed dunk over Greg Monroe while drawing a foul. The three-point play gave the Knicks a 67-65 lead.
Douglas made a 3-pointer from the right corner, and Shawne Williams added a dunk on a fast break to push the lead to seven. Douglas scored again before Detroit finally scored with 1:30 left in the period when New York was called for a defensive 3-second violation and Ben Gordon made the free throw.
Notes: The Knicks shot 12 of 31 from 3-point range, a day after making a team-record 20 shots from beyond the arc in a win over Memphis. Douglas made nine 3-pointers in that game. He made four against the Pistons. … Prince led Detroit with 16 points.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)