95 - 100 Final
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Pistons spoil Billups' homecoming to win third straight

Mar 4, 2009 - 4:55 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups' return to The Palace of Auburn Hills yielded the same result that he got used to for more than six years - a win for the Detroit Pistons.

The reception may have been warm from his former home crowd, but his ex-mates were a bit more hostile in their treatment - on the court, at least - as the surged ahead in the fourth quarter to come away with a 100-95 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

It was Billups' first return to Detroit since he was dealt in the November exchange that sent Allen Iverson to the Pistons. He has carried his new team to the top of the Northwest Division, but he couldn't overcome his former club in this one.

"They did a good job," Billups said. "You've got to give them credit. They did a good job. I wish they didn't, but they did."

After trailing for most of the contest, the Pistons jumped on top early in the fourth with a 12-3 run to open up an 86-79 advantage. Even without their former leader - known throughout his time in Motown as "Mr. Big Shot" - the Pistons seemed to come up with every big shot they needed down the stretch.

"Tonight we did a good job of getting the ball to the open man," Detroit coach Michael Curry said. "It was more by committee down the stretch. When somebody's open, they're comfortable getting the ball to him. We had good ball movement tonight."

Billups brought the Nuggets back to within three halfway through the fourth quarter, but Tayshaun Prince had a cold-blooded retort just 26 seconds later, burying a 3-pointer from the corner to double the lead. J.R. Smith followed with a three of his own, but the Pistons would not let up.

"I thought we did a good job defensively in the second half," Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey said. "We pressured the ball and we hit our shots."

Stuckey - Billups' replacement at the point - knocked down a jumper from the left wing and Rasheed Wallace, whose shot has been erratic all season, connected from long range at the top of the key to push the lead to eight. That deficit proved too much for Denver to overcome.

"They looked good down the stretch," Billups said. "Nobody really forced anything, they were hitting open guys. Sheed hit a big one, Rip hit a big one. They were scrappy. They did, you've got to give them credit. They're coming back into their selves again."

A few clutch buckets in the game's waning minutes kept the heat on, but Richard Hamilton put the game on ice with six free throws in the final 27 seconds to deliver the Pistons' third victory in a row following an eight-game skid.

"I told (Billups) at the start of the second half, 'You've had your fun.' Everybody was screaming your name and yelling for you,'" Hamilton said. "'Now I've got to guard you and lock this thing up.'"

Billups, clearly feeling both comfortable in and motivated by the surrounding, set a season high with 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting, but it wasn't enough to put a stop to the Nuggets' recent rough patch. They have now dropped two straight and five of seven to see their stranglehold on the Northwest start to slip away.

The Portland Trail Blazers (37-22) are now within one game, with the Utah Jazz (37-23) climbing to within 1 1/2 games.

"I thought it was a great night for Chauncey, other than not getting the win," Denver coach George Karl said. "We just didn't have enough help for him offensively."

Denver is now back over the .500 mark and continued to win in the absence of Iverson, who is out with a nagging back injury. Prince led the Pistons with 23 points while Hamilton added 21 and seven assists.

"Coming off a long road trip, it's always tough to win coming back home," Pistons forward Antonio McDyess said. "The first half, we felt like our legs were dead, but we got our second wind in the second half."

Wallace added 16 points and 10 boards and Antonio McDyess chipped in 16 and 12 in a performance purely evocative of the ball-sharing style that has defined the Pistons for the better part of the last decade.

The Nuggets were without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who was serving a team-mandated, one-game suspension for an in-game transgression in Sunday's loss to Indiana.