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Hamilton, Billups keep Pistons surging

Dec 27, 2007 - 4:43 AM By Carl Dispoto PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons are used to stepping up their defense in the third quarter. Their offense is starting to follow the trend.

Richard Hamilton scored 10 of his 22 points in a dominant third quarter as the Pistons extended their winning streak to a season-high six straight games with a 101-83 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday.

Detroit held a one-point lead at halftime despite allowing New Jersey to shoot 55 percent (18-of-33) in the first two quarters. But the Pistons erupted in the third, solidifying their trademark defense while scoring 31 points on 14-of-18 shooting.

"We got cooking and we got the shots that we should hit," Billups said. "Our defense picked up in the third quarter and the shots started going and that's a deadly combination."

Chauncey Billups scored eight of his 17 points and Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace combined for 13 in the decisive period for the Pistons, who secured their longest winning streak since a seven-game run from January 31 to February 12.

Detroit scored 15 of the first 19 points in the quarter sparked by Billups, who made a pair of layups, assisted on baskets by McDyess and Wallace and sank a technical free throw in a span of 3:40.

"We came out and changed the tempo of the game by being more aggressive on the defensive end," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "Then offensively, we moved the ball which led to some easy baskets and shooting well allowed us to come down and set up our defense."

Hamilton was 5-for-5 from the floor all long jumpers - in the quarter and the Pistons held the Nets to 19 points on to 7-of-18 shooting in the third for 76-62 cushion.

"The guys did a great job of finding me and getting me shots in rhythm," Hamilton said. "I just got a lot of good screens that got me some easy looks."

The Pistons have allowed 20 points or less in the third quarter in six of their last seven games and have scored at least 26 points in four of their last five.

"The third quarter is an important quarter for any team," Billups said. "Halftime is big and we've been coming out really locked in the third quarter."

"That's how we play, we've been a very good third quarter team," Saunders said. "We have players that can come out and make some adjustments and we've been able to gain control in the third quarter and bring it home down the stretch."

McDyess finished with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds and Billups handed out 10 assists for Detroit, which shot 54 percent (42-of-78) overall and 65 percent (24-of-37) after halftime.

The Pistons have won 15 of their last 18 games overall and have held their last seven opponents under 90 points. They have won six of their last seven road games.

"The main thing is that we've been extremely unselfish at both ends," Saunders said. "We're playing very much as a team and our bench has been huge and our minutes have been great from our entire team."

Vince Carter scored just six of his 21 points in the second half and Richard Jefferson added 18 for New Jersey, which failed to win its third straight and lost its sixth consecutive regular-season meeting with Detroit.

"They did a good job of making it tough on us," Carter said. "We got good shots in the second half, we just didn't knock them down. They turned it up and we just didn't match their intensity in the second half."

Jason Kidd collected 13 assists to move past Gary Payton and into sixth place all time with 8,972 for the Nets. But he struggled otherwise, scoring just two points on 0-of-8 shooting.

Detroit made its first six shots of the game and jumped out to an 11-4 lead but struggled for the remainder of the half. Wallace's 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first quarter gave the Pistons a 26-24 edge.

Carter scored eight points in the second and gave the Nets a 42-36 edge with a jumper at 2:49. But Billups showed signs of things to come, making a pair of free throws and assisting on a jumper by Hamilton before capping the half with a layup to give Detroit a 45-44 halftime lead.

The Pistons had a hot start again in the second half, making their first seven shots. But they kept rolling this time, using their physical defense to hassle the Nets, who managed just 39 points on 12-of-32 shooting after halftime.

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