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Billups shows no effects of hamstring injury to lead Pistons

Dec 9, 2006 - 2:47 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups' tender right hamstring did not affect his shot.

Billups scored a season-high 31 points and Richard Hamilton had a pair of big baskets down the stretch as the Detroit Pistons posted an 87-83 victory over the Orlando Magic.

A game-time decision after straining his hamstring in Thursday's impressive 92-82 victory at Dallas, Billups carried the Pistons virtually the entire way, making 11-of-16 shots in 38 minutes.

"I was kind of tight early, but I finally loosened up a bit in the second quarter," Billups said. "I just tried to stay aggressive coming down in the second half."

"Sometimes when you're not 100 percent, you have a tendency to slow down a little bit and almost play better at times because as you slow down, your mind also slows down and things become a little bit clearer," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "I liked the way he played."

Hamilton took the Pistons home as he drilled a shot from the right baseline with 1:24 remaining to snap an 82-82 tie. Following a turnover by Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, Hamilton sank another jumper from the right baseline with 51 seconds left for a four-point lead.

"Tonight, I was just trying to stay within the offense," Hamilton said. "A lot of times the team goes to me, but I was just trying to stay within. I was trying to be money down the stretch. That's what you get paid for."

Hamilton collected 14 points and a season-high 10 rebounds for the Pistons, who won for the 10th time in 12 games.

"When we come out with that type of effort and play our A game, we are the best team in the league," Hamilton said. The efforts by Billups and Hamilton spoiled the 21st birthday of Magic center Dwight Howard, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Returning home following a 4-2 road trip, Orlando committed 13 turnovers - five by Howard - and made just 22-of-34 free throws.

"I just think we didn't make shots that we should have made," Howard said. "We had a couple of turnovers that gave them the game."

"It was the top two teams in the East going up against each other right now, and unfortunately we didn't have an answer for Chauncey Billups, and of course Rip made a couple of big plays down the stretch," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "By the same token we can't miss 12 free throws and expect to be in the game."

Making free throws at less than 65 percent, Howard made 11-of-13 from the line, including a pair with 4:59 remaining that gave the Magic an 80-77 lead.

Billups tied the game 13 seconds later, and Flip Murray hit a tough fadeaway as the shot clock expired to give the Pistons the lead. Howard tied it at 82-82, converting a reverse layup with 2:23 remaining.

After Hamilton's jumper gave the Detroit the lead for good, Nelson whipped a pass inside that deflected off former Piston Darko Milicic's hands and out of bounds.

Hamilton came off a screen and swished another jumper, making it 86-82. The 6-foot Nelson drove the lane and had his shot blocked by 6-11 Rasheed Wallace, allowing the Pistons to all but seal things.

Wallace and Murray collected 13 points apiece for the Pistons, who shot 47 percent (34-of-72) and held a 38-34 rebounding advantage.

Billups was at his best in the third quarter, when he scored 16 points to keep the Pistons within 67-66 heading into the final period.

"That's just Chauncey Billups, one of the top three points guards in the league," Magic guard Keyon Dooling said. "That shouldn't surprise anybody."

Grant Hill scored 12 points and Trevor Ariza 10 for Orlando, which shot 45 percent (29-of-65) in losing for the 11th time in the last 14 meetings against Detroit.

Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu suffered a sprained right ankle in the first quarter and did not return.

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