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Billups, Pistons use late run to top fading Knicks

Apr 10, 2007 - 3:43 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- It was only a matter of time before Chauncey Billups and the Detroit Pistons overwhelmed the depleted New York Knicks.

Billups scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half and Richard Hamilton added 19 as the Pistons executed down the stretch en route to a 91-83 victory over the Knicks.

New York (32-45) is four games behind Orlando (36-41) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just five contests left.

"We are not even thinking about (the playoffs)," Knicks center Eddy Curry said. "We are just going to play tough, play hard all game and just let teams know when they play us that this isn't going to be one of the end of the season things. We are going to continue to play hard until the end of the season."

The Knicks have been ravaged by injuries to key players, including guard Jamal Crawford (stress fracture ankle), forward Quentin Richardson (back), guard Stephon Marbury (foot) and forward David Lee, who dressed but did not play with a recurring leg bruise.

"Our margin of error is very slim," New York coach Isiah Thomas said. "The little things add up in a course of a ballgame, and it ends up giving the other team two or three extra points. Those type of things end up hurting you in the long run in the course of a game.

"That being said, we were playing against a good basketball team in Detroit. They are good in all areas. When it came down to the last three minutes of the game, we saw exactly how good they are."

Adding to the problems, guard Steve Francis missed most of the fourth quarter after being ejected for arguing with 10:50 left.

Despite being shorthanded, New York took a 10-point lead on Nate Robinson's 3-pointer with 47 seconds left in the third. But Billups scored five straight points to end the period, sparking a 17-2 run capped by Tayshaun Prince's jumper with 6:53 left in the fourth to put Detroit in front, 75-70.

The Knicks fought back, but the Pistons took the lead for good on Billups' fadeaway jumper to snap a 79-79 tie with 2:37 left.

"That's what it comes down at the end, last five minutes, that's usually winning time," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "You have to defend, you have to lock down defensively, defensive rebounds, try to get a steal here and not give up anything too easy. And on the offensive end, make easy plays, you get easy shots and that's pretty much what we did."

Billups, who was 6-of-11, including 4-of-6 from the arc, admitted his squad thrives on late-game situations.

"That's pretty much us in a nutshell," Billups said. "We always look for that challenge, unfortunately. But when we are challenged, we always step up to the plate. When it's time to buckle down and get stops, we get stops. When it's time to buckle down and execute, we do that and it was one of our typical games."

Robinson and Eddy Curry scored 24 points apiece for New York, which shot just 42 percent (30-of-71).

"I think (Detroit) made it a point to really make it a point to let me know I wasn't going to have my way with them," Curry said. "They played a good game. It's a tough group of guys over there in (that) locker room. They're a very good team. They've won championships and there's no reason to believe it was a fluke."

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