Pistons Make Statement vs. Sixers
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., March 20 (Ticker) --
If anyone was wondering which was the best team in the Eastern Conference, Chauncey Billups
and Ben Wallace
left no doubt.
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Billups scored 16 of his 29 points in the first quarter and Wallace dominated on defense as the Detroit Pistons trounced the
Philadelphia 76ers 113-85 in a meeting of division leaders.
The Pistons totally controlled the game on both ends of the floor. Their trademark defense ended Allen Iverson's double-figure scoring streak at 186 games. On offense, they made 12-of-23 three-pointers to demoralize the 76ers.
"We're on top and there is nothing about this league that surprises us," Wallace said. "You have to come ready to play
every night and we came ready to play."
"They were well-prepared and they just played great," 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "They took care of their home court and
made a statement."
Philadelphia came in having won 15 of 17 games since the All-Star break, the best record in the NBA during that span. The
surge moved the Sixers to the top of the Atlantic Division, percentage points ahead of the New Jersey Nets.
Next in their sights were the Pistons, who had recovered nicely from a seven-game slide, winning five of six to maintain first place in the Central Division. But Detroit wasted no time asserting itself, racing to a 29-16 lead and pouring it on
"I remember Cotton Fitzsimmons told me there are going to be four games a year where you're going to shake your head," Brown
said. "No matter what you do, your team just doesn't have it, and maybe there's going to be four games where you play and the other team doesn't have it. Based on the way we'd been playing, I didn't anticipate this."
Billups had a lot to do with the quick start, making a pair of three-pointers and a three-point play in the first period. Overall, he made 9-of-13 shots, including 6-of-8 from the arc.
"Scoring is not my main objective," Billups said. "I'm looking to just run the team. But I'll take shots, and if I get it
going, I'm going to stay aggressive."
Wallace was a terror. He had seven of his nine blocked shots in the first half, when Detroit opened a 56-35 lead. He also
pulled down 22 rebounds, his fifth straight game with 20 or more.
"You've got to give him a lot of credit because he was the reason, in a way, that we struggled offensively, 'cause we were
unable to get to the hoop and we were unable to get to the line," Sixers forward Keith Van Horn said.
The 2002 Defensive Player of the Year, Wallace backstopped a defense that cooled off the red-hot Iverson. The three-time
scoring champion had eclipsed 30 points in seven of his previous eight games but managed just five on 2-of-11 shooting.
Perhaps bothered by a sore left thumb, Iverson was held to single digits for the first time since March 2, 2000 at
"It was just a frustrating night," he said. "I think that was one of the worst basketball experiences I ever had, especially
from a personal standpoint and from how I played tonight. It was just one that I'm just ready to get out of my system."
Rookie Mehmet Okur scored 18 points and Richard Hamilton added 15 for the Pistons, who never trailed and led by as many as 35 points. They shot 51 percent (42-of-82) and held a 49-37 edge on the boards.
"We played one of our best games and obviously Philly didn't play one of theirs," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "We got
a lift from our bench. I thought that everybody that played, played well."
Detroit native Derrick Coleman had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Sixers, who fell one-half game behind the Nets in the Atlantic. They shot 43 percent (35-of-82), including just 1-of-5 from the arc.
Billups had a three-point play and three-pointer that pushed the lead to 20-11 with 4:35 left in the first quarter. His
three-pointer made it 29-16 in the final minute of the period.
Philadelphia closed to 31-24 on a jumper by Coleman at the 10:25 mark of the second quarter, but Detroit responded with a 22-6 burst that featured 10 points from Chucky Atkins, who came on for Billups.
A fast-break layup by Clifford Robinson capped the surge and gave the Pistons a 53-30 bulge with 3:03 to go. The Sixers got no closer than 19 points thereafter.
Scoreless in the second quarter, Billups had 13 more points in the third period, when Detroit opened a 34-point lead.
"I thought maybe we'd come out the second half and give them a run but they didn't let up and we didn't respond very well,"
Iverson took a seat at the end of the third quarter and did not return. He also had a four-point game against Detroit on March 23, 1998.
"Tonight we just couldn't do anything on the offensive end or the defensive end," Iverson said. "It was just one of those
nights -- hope the game hurry up and get over, learn what we've got to learn from it."
Corliss Williamson scored 14 points and Atkins and Robinson added 10 apiece for the Pistons. Atkins left in the third quarter with a bruised left knee and did not return.
Eric Snow scored 12 points and Greg Buckner and Kenny Thomas added 10 each for the Sixers, who fell to 1-2 against Detroit this season.