AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester has been frantically juggling his lineup as his team has struggled through a poor season.
Sunday, he might have found a combination that worked.
Kuester went with a very small lineup in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it paid off in a 102-92 victory.
"They had done some nice things against us in the first half, so I thought it was an adjustment we could make," Kuester said. "It worked very well."
Kuester started the third quarter by replacing power forward Jason Maxiell with Ben Gordon. Gordon, Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey gave the Pistons a three-guard look, with Tayshaun Prince at power forward and Ben Wallace at center.
"There will be fours in the league that will give Tayshaun trouble in that lineup, and J.J. Hickson is a good, up-and-coming player, but I thought this was a good time to try it," Kuester said. "It was a very active lineup defensively -- we got a lot of tips and deflections -- and we let the defense create our offense."
The new lineup came along with an all-too-rare good shooting night from Hamilton. Hamilton, who came into the game averaging 12.7 points, finished with 27, hitting 10 of 17 field goals, and going 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
"It's tough to get into a rhythm sometimes when you are playing 17 minutes a game one night and 35 the next time," Hamilton said. "We needed a win tonight, because we're going on the road tomorrow, and we took care of our home floor. That was important."
Both teams came into the game off embarrassing performances. Cleveland lost its last two games by a combined 62 points, including the highly anticipated return of LeBron James. Meanwhile, the Pistons were beaten at home by an Orlando team missing Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and two other key players because of the flu.
"Obviously, I'm not happy about the loss, but I am a bit happier by the fact that our guys competed out there," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. "That's a step in the right direction, but we've got to do it again Tuesday, and do it even harder and even better."
Stuckey had his first double-double of the season with 24 points and 11 assists, while Prince added 20 points for Detroit.
"This was a 48-minute performance for the most part -- we played well every time we needed it," Prince said. "Stuck had great penetration tonight and got the ball to the line, and we moved the ball well. Now we have to build off this."
Reserve Antawn Jamison led Cleveland with 22 points, but no starter scored more than 14.
"Turnovers hurt us tonight, and there was one stretch where they were just running a layup line against us," Anthony Parker said. "We need to change this. It's not something that is just going to happen -- it has to be us. We can't feel sorry for ourselves and beg for calls. We have to do this ourselves."
The Cavaliers appeared ready to turn things around at the start of the game, leading 24-19 after one quarter, but stumbled slightly in the second. Cleveland didn't have a player in double figures in the first half and trailed 51-46 at the intermission.
With Wallace anchoring the defensive end and the Pistons' smaller lineup on the floor, Detroit turned several Cleveland turnovers into an 11-0 third-quarter run and led 78-67 going into the fourth.
"Body [Wallace] is so crafty when it comes to getting his hands on the ball and getting rebounds," Kuester said. "That's why we had such a big advantage in hustle points."
The Cavaliers never got the margin back to single digits in the fourth.
Cleveland has lost a season-worst four straight. ... Despite the smaller lineup, Detroit guard Will Bynum was dropped from Kuester's rotation for the second game in a row. Austin Daye also didn't get to play until the final minutes, as the Pistons went with nine players most of the game. ... With snow falling and two struggling teams on the floor, the game drew one of the smallest crowds in Palace history. The paid attendance was announced as 13,081, but the actual crowd appeared to be under 10,000.