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Billups, Wallace help Pistons turn back Hawks

Feb 13, 2008 - 4:06 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) - Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups helped the Detroit Pistons extend their winning streak to nine games.

Wallace scored a team-high 21 points and Billups tallied 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pistons to a 94-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.

Richard Hamilton and rookie reserve Rodney Stuckey tallied 12 points each for Detroit, which swept the Hawks in a season set for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign.

"Overall, we made plays when we needed to," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Atlanta played well down the stretch, but we kept our poise and executed when we needed to."

Clinging to a one-point lead, Billups connected an 18-foot jumper from the right wing to give the Pistons a 92-89 with 22 seconds remaining.

"He hit big shots in the fourth quarter," said Atlanta forward Josh Smith of Billups. "That's the type of player he is. His nickname is 'Mr. Big Shot.' In the clutch, everybody on the team knows he's going to take that shot."

After Smith nailed 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to two, Richard Hamilton connected on two throws to seal the win.

Billups struggled through the first three quarters, missing all of his eight shots from the field and connecting on just four free throws.

But 31-year-old Billups was solid in the fourth, connecting on 5-of-8 from the field to help the Pistons overcome blowing a 15-point lead. Billups took control of the contest midway through the fourth, tallying 10 straight Detroit points, including two 3-pointers, to give the Pistons an 89-86 lead.

"At times it seemed like there were lids on the baskets, because I couldn't get anything to fall," Billups said. "I was able to come in late and make some big plays."

"He's capable of making big plays," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "That's Chauncey. He's hit big shots pretty much the last seven, eight years he's been in Detroit."

After Antonio McDyess connected on 1-of-2 free throws to give Detroit a four-point cushion, Smith drained a rare 3-pointer to cut the Pistons' lead to 90-89 with 47 seconds remaining.

With the Pistons entrenched in the second position in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks trying to claw their way to the playoffs for the first time this side of the millennium, this contest could be a prelude to a potential first-round matchup.

"It was heated going against a team I didn't play against the last time," Atlanta rookie forward Al Horford said. "If it ends up happening like that and we have to play them in the playoffs, we've got to go to work."

Wallace had a different take on his potential playoff opponents.

"It doesn't matter who we see, honestly," Wallace said. "We have a job to do. We have a mission. They're going to be in the way."

The free-falling Hawks, who entered Tuesday locked into the seventh position in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, tumbled to the eighth seed with the loss.

Former Hawk-for-a-game Wallace was everywhere for Detroit in the first quarter.

Wallace was lights out in the frame, tallying 15 consecutive points for the Pistons on 6-for-7 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc to help Detroit build a 25-18 lead.

"It was just the offense," Wallace said. "I took what (the Hawks) gave me."

When he was not beating the Hawks on the floor to chants of "Sheed" from the boisterous Pistons fans at Philips Arena, he was a menace in the Hawks' side off of it.

The four-time All-Star jokingly invaded the Atlanta huddle during a timeout and asked Woodson, who helped coach Wallace as Larry Brown's top assistant during the Pistons 2004-2005 championship run, what play was called.

"That's my man," Wallace said of Woodson.

But it wasn't all fun for Wallace, who played most of the fourth quarter with five fouls before fouling out with 14 seconds remaining. The 33-year-old also picked up a technical foul in the final frame after arguing with referee Dan Crawford.

"It was a jump ball with Rip (Hamilton) and Josh (Smith)," Wallace said of the technical. "I said (that Smith) traveled like crazy."

The Pistons extended the advantage to 41-26 with 7:42 remaining in the seconds on Richard Hamilton's 16-foot jumper before Atlanta got back into the game.

Smith ignited an 11-2 run with four points and Joe Johnson tallied three to cut Atlanta's deficit down to six on Tyronn Lue's jumper with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter.

Detroit extended the lead back to 11 points after the break before Atlanta scored 15 of the next 17 points to take the lead. Horford tallied five during the spurt, including a three-point play, to give Atlanta a 64-62 lead with 6:04 remaining in the third period.

Smith scored 30 points and Horford and Josh Childress added 12 a piece for Atlanta, which has lost 10 of its last 14 games.

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