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Billups helps Pistons capture fourth straight win

Nov 23, 2006 - 3:40 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- The surging Detroit Pistons may be starting to find their identity.

Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince all recorded double-doubles as the Pistons captured their fourth straight win with a 103-98 over the slumping Atlanta Hawks.

The Pistons have reached the Eastern Conference finals the past three campaigns, winning the title in 2004. After a somewhat dismal start this season, Detroit has finally been able to string together a group of impressive wins, holding each opponent under 100 points during its streak.

"They were great down the stretch," said Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, a former Pistons assistant. "They've been through the battles. They've been tested. They read each other extremely well."

Billups had 24 points and 10 assists for Detroit, which shot just 40 percent (36-of-88) from the floor but made 7-of-14 3-pointers. Prince had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Wallace added 14 and 13.

"Our greatest strength as a team is our ability to play hard," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We have to get back to playing to our strength. Tonight, our shooting percentage was down, but the hustle plays were not. We had good energy and I think that's something we've stressed to a lot of our guys over the last week."

Antonio McDyess scored on a follow jam and Wallace connected on a shot from the arc to give Detroit an 83-79 advantage with 6:11 remaining.

"It was a grind-it-out game. Those are the kind of games we like," Saunders said. "We got after it defensively in the second half after a slow start. We did things knowing they weren't as fresh as you'd like to be, so what you got to do is grind it out. You got to jam it inside and try to get to the free-throw line as much as you can and play that way."

Atlanta was within 91-87 with just under three minutes left, but Prince scored on a layup and Billups drained a 3-pointer to create some distance.

"We came in and weathered the storm early," Billups said. "We thought they would come out with a lot of energy. It was a good win for us."

Joe Johnson scored 25 points and rookie Shelden Williams added 20 for Atlanta, who dropped their fourth consecutive game after winning four in a row. The Hawks shot 43 percent (31-of-72).

"It was another tough loss. We can't finish," Johnson said. "We can't get over the hump. We're not executing down the stretch. We're not doing the little things. Any time you lose, it's tough. You can't take anything good out of it."

"We need to think about what got us the lead and build off that," said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who scored just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.

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