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Murray leads Pistons to another convincing road victory

Mar 17, 2007 - 6:29 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Ronald Murray and the Detroit Pistons had no problem with the NBA's superior conference.

Murray scored 25 points and Rasheed Wallace added 20 as the Pistons extended their winning streak to five games with a 105-83 rout of the surging Phoenix Suns.

Chris Webber had 17 points and nine rebounds for Detroit (42-22), which now is 2 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland (40-25) for first place in the Central Division and the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a good team. We're built for this, we feel," Webber said. "We're built for playoff basketball the way we played them tonight. Our philosophy is defense because we know everyone on our team can score. So, we'll try to punish you inside and play our tempo and play great defense."

Playing in one of the weakest conferences of all-time, the Eastern squads have struggled to stay above .500 this season, while their Western counterparts continue to thrive. But the Pistons have proved that the NBA Finals are not a foregone conclusion.

Detroit is the only team in the Eastern Conference with a winning road record at 23-10 and it continued its stellar play away from home by sweeping all five games on a tough Western road trip.

"I don't think it is just going 5-0, it is how we played," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We played how we have to play in the playoffs. Defensively, we locked down, offensively we executed outside of the Seattle game. We kept everyone under 90 and we were against some running teams and that shows you where we are coming defensively."

A reserve guard, Murray made sure the Pistons continued their stellar play, shooting 12-of-16 from the field, including 1-of-3 on 3-pointers. Wallace was 8-of-17 and 4-of-6 and drew his 17th technical foul of the season in the fourth quarter after nailing his final shot from the arc.

"We are lucky that we have been playing Flip (Murray) 20 minutes a game because he had some confidence and some rhythm then made some shots," Saunders said. "He could see that the other guys were playing with great confidence with him running our offense. He made good shots, and more importantly, he made good decisions."

MUrray said that the increased playing time has helped him a lot.

"(Playing more minutes) gave me a chance to get back in the groove again quicker," Murray said. "The first couple of games was rough getting back into a rhythm. In the third quarter, I was able to make plays and I did whatever I had to do to make plays. I got a chance to get my hands on the ball and there was some wide-open lanes."

Already over the league's technical foul limit, the star forward will receive his second one-game suspension of the campaign.

Detroit controlled the pace for most of the game and led, 75-64, after three quarters. The Pistons then put the game away in the final period, outscoring the Suns, 30-19, over the final 12 minutes to secure the victory.

Amare Stoudemire continued his strong play, collecting 24 points and 15 rebounds for Phoenix (50-15), which now is 3 1/2 games behind Dallas (53-11) for first place in the Western Conference and the NBA's best record.

"We just didn't come out with the intensity tonight," Stoudemire said. "We didn't come out with our up-tempo game. They did a great job playing inside-out. They played like it was playoff basketball tonight and we stooped down to their level. We didn't attack like we needed to."

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni just didn't have it and suffered a thorough defeat.

"They just busted us. It was good old fashioned butt-whipping," D'Antoni said. "They did everything, when we doubled, they hit threes. When we didn't double, they scored the twos. We played bad in the second quarter and kind of lost the rhythm. We started off well, but I don't know if it was emotionally or not, but we didn't have enough juice and firepower."

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