Prince weaved his way to a career-high 34 points, matched a career best with 12 rebounds and the Pistons pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Heat 91-80 on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
The Pistons played without Richard Hamilton, who tended to a family matter. So Prince picked up the slack, going 13-for-23 from the floor, and the Pistons also got 19 points and 11 assists from Chauncey Billups.
"With Rip out, I had to really respond," Prince said. "When you get layups and good looks at the rim, you are in a good rhythm."
He sliced across the lane often for layups or dunks, using his oddly long frame to keep any Heat defender at bay.
"Most times, he has mismatches," Billups said. "And we have to use him."
Meanwhile, the Heat were without 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, still sidelined as he recovers from offseason knee and shoulder surgeries. So with Wade out -- Heat coach Pat Riley said after the game he may have a "decision" about Wade's rehab schedule Friday -- Miami was to run its offense through Shaquille O'Neal.
Problem was, the Pistons doubled O'Neal from the outset, holding him to six shots and nine points -- none of those coming in the first half.
And one game into the season, the Big Fella isn't exactly happy.
"We took a lot of jump shots, way too many jump shots," O'Neal said. "I'd like more than six shots if we're going to win, especially until Dwyane comes back."
The Pistons used a 12-0 run -- sparked by zone defense that befuddled Miami -- over a six-minute span down the stretch to take control. Rasheed Wallace scored 11 points for Detroit.
Ricky Davis scored 23 points for Miami, which dropped its opener for the second straight season. Sure, this one was closer than last year's 108-66 ring-night debacle against the Chicago Bulls, but that'll offer little consolation.
Udonis Haslem had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat before fouling out with 4:29 left.
"We kind of stood still and went back on our heels when they went into their zone defense," Haslem said. "And that's when the game went away from us."
Detroit won despite shooting only 39 percent, making up for that by going 23-for-30 from the foul line and scoring 28 points off 17 Heat turnovers.
Miami was 9-for-15 at the line and wound up losing for the seventh straight time dating back to last season -- not including its 0-7 preseason record.
"Very disappointing way to start the season, obviously," Riley said. "The same things that bothered us or hurt us in preseason are the same things that happened to us tonight. ... The turnovers and the lack of free-throw attempts are sometimes hard to overcome."
Miami opened the game on a 16-8 run, before the Pistons answered with a 22-6 burst over the next eight minutes and maintained the lead for the remainder of the half.
There were two glaring stats that jumped out at halftime: O'Neal had zero points (with three fouls), and the Pistons had a 19-6 edge in free throws attempted -- certainly part of the reason why they led 48-42 at intermission.
The other reason was Prince. He went 6-for-12 for 16 points in the half, including a personal 6-0 run over a 72-second spurt to give Detroit what was its biggest lead, 43-32 with 3:49 left until halftime.
Miami fought back in the third. The Heat missed what would have been go-ahead jump shots on four straight possessions late in the quarter, before Smush Parker's layup -- his first basket in a Miami uniform -- tied it at 62 with 1:15 left in the period.
Momentum didn't exactly shift, though. The Pistons scored the next 12 points, capped by a jumper from Prince with 7:39 left, to reclaim control.
"If you continue to play aggressively, good things will happen," Prince said.
Parker hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that would have drawn Miami within 66-65, but video review showed it was after time expired. ... Penny Hardaway got his first taste of regular-season action in nearly two years, checking in for Miami with 9:20 left in the second quarter. ... The always-excitable Wallace's first foul of the season led to his first referee complaint of the season: "That's crazy," he told Joe DeRosa after fouling O'Neal with 11:10 left in the third. ... Haslem started his fifth straight opener for Miami, one shy of Rony Seikaly's team record.
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