The Detroit Pistons don't have a go-to scorer. What they do possess is an unquestioned veteran leader, forward Tayshaun Prince. When they got in trouble Sunday night, Prince came to the rescue.
Prince scored a team-high 20 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 10.9 seconds remaining, as the Pistons edged the Milwaukee Bucks 96-94 at The Palace. Prince also made a jump hook in the final minute after the Bucks took their only lead.
"He has a calming presence," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "He's been in that situation more than anyone on our team. We've got trust in all our guys, but Tay has a very, very calming presence on the floor."
Prince reached double figures for the 25th time in 33 games this season. The 20-point night was his second-biggest output, which made him the primary option down the stretch.
"I had a good rhythm down there," the 11th-year veteran said. "It's just one of those games, if you have a good flow, you've just got to keep attacking. For a long time in the third quarter, I didn't get down there (in the low post) as much as I would have liked. But the most important thing was I got down there at some point throughout the game, so I had a good flow at the end to make something happen."
Greg Monroe had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Jason Maxiell added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit, which has won four of its past five games. The Pistons (11-22) barely survived Milwaukee's late rally after leading by 13 earlier in the fourth.
"I thought our guys maintained their poise down the stretch," Frank said. "If you're competitive, like we have been, you're going to be in a lot of those games. Sometimes you're going to covert, sometimes you won't, but the key is we just have to keep putting ourselves in this position."
Monta Elllis scored a game-high 30 points, and Ersan Ilyasova added 24 points for the Bucks (16-13).
Ellis missed a potential tying 18-foot shot with 1.9 seconds left. Pistons point guard Brandon Knight contested the jumper.
"I definitely wanted to take the 3-point option away and make sure I forced him to go to the basket," Knight said. "I just tried to cut off his first dribble and keep him in front of me."
Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles bemoaned his team's play until the late going.
"It was a bad 3 1/2 quarters," he said. "They outplayed us except for maybe six to eight minutes. They deserved to win, and we had chance to try and steal it at the end."
Ellis made two baskets in the final minute of the third quarter, cutting Detroit's lead to 78-71. The Bucks couldn't make any headway during the first seven minutes of the fourth, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Ellis and Mike Dunleavy closed the gap to 92-89. After a few empty possessions, Ilyasova tied the game with 1:43 left on another 3-pointer.
Following a Knight turnover, Ellis hit a fallaway jumper to give Milwaukee its lone lead. Prince then tied the game at 94-94 with his short hook, and Ellis missed a 15-footer.
Prince was fouled along the baseline by Luc Mbah a Moute, and he hit the decisive free throws before Ellis came up empty again.
The Pistons scored the first 13 points, prompting some fans to chant "Shutout! Shutout!" An Ellis layup halted that, but the home team stayed hot the rest of the half, shooting 57.1 percent while taking a 55-45 lead at the break.
"It seemed like they were getting whatever they wanted," Dunleavy said. "I just thought our offensive rhythm was terrible to start the game. Finally, we got some stuff going, but we didn't start well."
NOTES: Neither team has ever swept the season series, even though they have been playing since the 1968-69 season. This was the first of four games between the division rivals this season. Milwaukee leads the all-time series 118-100. ... Mbah A Moute needed three stitches to close a cut to his lip, an injury he suffered just 1:17 into the game. He finished with two points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. ... Detroit was playing the second game of a five-game homestand, its longest this season. ... Pistons sixth man Rodney Stuckey missed his second consecutive game with a left ankle sprain.. ... Skiles set the NBA single-game assists record 22 years to the day. Skiles had 30 assists for the Orlando Magic against the Denver Nuggets. "I don't give it a lot of thought," he said. "The game is a lot different now, so it's hard for anybody to (break) it." ... The Pistons reserves scored 85 and 64 points in the previous two games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in franchise history the bench has scored at least 60 points in back-to-back games since it started keeping such stats in 1970. The Detroit bench managed just 33 points Sunday.