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Webber's big game lifts Pistons past Pacers

Jan 29, 2007 - 4:17 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- This is why the Detroit Pistons acquired Chris Webber.

Webber scored 17 points, including three follow shots down the stretch, and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Pistons recovered for a 95-87 victory over the persistent Indiana Pacers, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points and Rasheed Wallace added 20 for the Pistons, who squandered a 16-point third-quarter lead but bounced back to beat their rivals for the first time in three meetings this season.

Webber was waived by the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month after negotiating a buyout of the last 1 1/2 years of his contract. He was signed by the Pistons, who have been looking for frontcourt depth since the free agent departure of All-Star center Ben Wallace.

Playing the pivot, Webber has been working his way into the offense, averaging 10.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in his first five games. But the five-time All-Star had his best game with his new club, making 8-of-14 shots and collecting three assists and three blocks.

"The more comfortable he is with us, he is going to be very effective," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "I think what he'll end up being able to go out and get us 16 or 17 points, 10 rebounds and be very efficient."

"Even if I'm not over the rim and dunking, I think my production can be the same," said Webber, who has been slowed in recent years by the aftereffects of microfracture surgery. "I was fortunate to watch Karl Malone and some other guys when they got older and they got harder to check. It was because they had more options. They were thinking two or three steps ahead. I definitely think I'm a smarter player."

Trailing by nine points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Pacers forged a 79-79 tie on a 3-pointer by Darrell Armstrong with 5:57 to play. Webber answered with a bucket, grabbing the rebound and tapping the ball off Mike Dunleavy Jr.'s side to clear some space.

"Because I can pass, you have to use everything," Webber said. "If (Dunleavy) wouldn't have gone for it, I would have passed it right after that."

"He's not the athlete that maybe he once was, but now he's got so much to his game down there," Saunders said. "His hand is so big. He has ball fakes. He has different things to keep the defender off guard."

The basket triggered a decisive 10-0 run that featured another follow shot by Webber. A basket by Chauncey Billups made it 89-79 with 2:09 to go.

"It felt good," Webber said. Other games maybe I haven't scored as much, but I talked to Chauncey today and I said I was trying to feel my way in. He said, 'We just want you to be you.' I was frustrated that I got in foul trouble and had to come out in the third so I definitely wanted to come out with some resolve in the fourth quarter."

The Pacers closed to 91-87 on a three-point play by Jamaal Tinsley with 37 seconds remaining and opted to play defense rather than foul. Billups drove and threw up a runner that was put home by Webber to seal the win with 16 seconds left.

Billups scored 17 points and Antonio McDyess added 13 and 11 boards for the Pistons (25-17), who were outshot and outrebounded but committed just eight turnovers as they remained one-half game behind Washington for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Detroit shot just 37 percent (30-of-81) and was beaten on the boards, 46-41. But the Pistons trailed only briefly in the early going and built double-digit leads in each half.

"Something we have to focus on a little bit more is when we get a team down, keeping them down," Billups said. "We have a problem with that. We gave up that lead in the second quarter, came back out in the third quarter and played well, took control of the game and ended up letting it get away again."

Saunders notched his 500th win as an NBA coach. The last 89 have come with the Pistons.

"It's great. I guess I'll have a piece of cake somewhere tonight," he said.

Jermaine O'Neal had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Tinsley scored 18 points for the Pacers, who shot 42.5 percent (31-of-73). Indiana (23-21) has yet to win four in a row this season.

"It's a 48-minute game and that's something that we have been working on," O'Neal said. "We say that if we can get within 10 going into the fourth quarter, we have a chance to win. We made plays and then we kind of ran out of steam late in the game."

O'Neal started slowly and the Pistons began quickly, opening a 35-20 lead midway through the second quarter. But O'Neal began attacking the basket and getting to the foul line, helping the Pacers close to 47-43 at halftime.

Wallace scored 10 points in a 16-6 run that gave Detroit its largest lead at 69-53 with 3:38 left in the third period.

"I really kind of put us behind the eight ball early in the game because I wasn't able to make shots I usually make," O'Neal said. "I was able to make some plays, along with my teammates, at the end of the game and gave us the opportunity to get back in the fourth quarter."

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