CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With only eight players available -- none a point guard -- the Charlotte Bobcats nearly pulled off their second stunner of the week against an elite team.
And while the scoreboard read that the Detroit Pistons had prevailed in overtime, 103-100, Bobcats coach Sam Vincent wasn't buying it, steamed over a basket interference call with 1.5 seconds left that wiped out a go-ahead basket for Charlotte.
"To me it was completely legal play," Vincent said after watching several replays of the call against Emeka Okafor. "It's very disappointing for me to have our guys be so underhanded and fight so hard to win a game and have it taken away by a whistle."
The Pistons avoided a third loss in four games thanks to the key call and Richard Hamilton's late heroics. He hit the go-ahead jumper with 16.2 seconds left. After the call that eliminated Nazr Mohammed's tip-in, Hamilton hit two free throws with 0.2 seconds left.
"It was tough," said Hamilton, who scored 26 points and acknowledged they let down against an undermanned team. "That's why it's better for them to have everybody."
Predictably, the Bobcats fell behind 31-17 in the first quarter, only to stage a remarkable comeback with a patchwork lineup and a zone defense that frustrated the Pistons.
Charlotte took the lead late in the third quarter, and built an 89-84 advantage on Wallace's driving layup with 3:23 left.
The Pistons rallied, tying the game on Billups' off-balance 3-pointer with 1:17 left. Charlotte and Detroit then each came up empty on two trips to force overtime.
The lead changed hands six times in OT, and Charlotte initially thought it had taken the lead when former Piston Mohammed, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds, tipped in Richardson's miss.
But referee Marc Davis called basket interference on Okafor, who deflected Richardson's short shot before it ended in Mohammed's hands.
Okafor believed the shot wasn't going to hit the rim.
"If I thought it was going to hit the rim I would have let it go," Okafor said.
Vincent was convinced the ball was short of the rim and not in the cylinder above the basket. He indicated the Bobcats planned to complain to the league and even suggested the unlikely scenario of replaying the end of the game, after the NBA's decision to replay the last minute of Miami's loss to Atlanta because of a scorekeeping error.
"I'm sure we're going to contact the league," Vincent said. "We'd like to do what Miami did and play the last minute over again, also. I believe it would be justified."
Instead, the Bobcats will likely have to remember another heartbreaking defeat despite a spirited effort.
Having no point guard left some odd sights. Wallace sometimes brought the ball up the floor, 3-point specialist Matt Carroll ran plays and even rookie forward Jared Dudley once flailed his arms to direct traffic at the top of the key.
Yet, it worked against the Pistons, who appeared flat after a three-game stretch against powers Boston, Dallas and San Antonio. The Pistons, lacking energy after their quick start, settling for jumpers against Charlotte's zone. The Pistons were 7 of 29 from 3-point range.
Coach Flip Saunders, who said he never remembered one of his teams taking so many 3s, was especially upset at Hamilton's 2 of 9 shooting from 3.
"I thought he was at the state fair or something trying to win a stuffed animal," Saunders said.
Saunders tried to get the Pistons out of their funk by going to different lineups, including stretches for former Bobcats Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec, acquired for Mohammed in a deal between the teams last month.
In the first matchup since the trade, Brezec had a three-point play early in the fourth quarter to put Detroit ahead 78-73, before Charlotte rallied again.
"We didn't have a point guard, some guys played 50 minutes last night," Wallace said. "We came out fighting and it says a lot about our team."
|Detroit congratulates Rip Hamilton (26 points, seven boards, eight dimes) for another job well done. (AP)|
|Detroit (28-9) «||31||20||24||16||12||103|
|DET:C. Billups 27 Pts
DET:A. McDyess 11 Reb
DET:R. Hamilton 8 Ast
|CHA:G. Wallace 26 Pts
CHA:E. Okafor 15 Reb
CHA:J. Richardson 8 Ast
|Players of the Game|
Detroit Pistons 2012 Wall Calendar
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|R. Hamilton, SG||46||9-25||6-6||7||8||5||26|
|C. Billups, PG||44||10-17||4-4||4||7||0||27|
|T. Prince, SF||40||10-17||0-0||7||3||3||22|
|A. McDyess, PF||36||1-7||3-4||11||1||6||5|
|R. Wallace, PF||36||4-11||2-2||6||2||5||10|
|J. Maxiell, PF||22||1-4||4-4||7||1||2||6|
|J. Hayes, SF||13||1-8||0-0||4||0||1||2|
|R. Stuckey, SG||13||0-4||0-0||1||0||2||0|
|P. Brezec, C||7||1-1||1-1||0||0||2||3|
|W. Herrmann, SF||6||1-3||0-0||0||0||0||2|
|A. Afflalo, SG||4||0-1||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|L. Hunter, SG||Did Not Play|
|R. Murray, PG||Did Not Play|
|A. Johnson, SF||Did Not Play|
|C. Samb, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|J. Richardson, SG||51||8-20||2-2||4||8||5||20|
|G. Wallace, SF||48||8-21||9-13||6||5||4||26|
|E. Okafor, C||46||8-11||3-5||15||2||4||19|
|M. Carroll, SG||43||4-8||2-5||3||1||2||10|
|J. Dudley, PF||30||2-5||2-3||3||1||2||6|
|N. Mohammed, C||32||8-14||3-4||13||1||4||19|
|R. Hollins, C||10||0-0||0-0||1||0||1||0|
|J. Davidson, PF||5||0-1||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|D. Anderson, SG||Did Not Play|
|O. Harrington, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. McInnis, PG||Did Not Play|
|R. Felton, PG||Did Not Play|
|S. May, PF||Did Not Play|
|A. Morrison, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|