SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 3 (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons gave the San Antonio Spurs something they had not had in more than a week - a close game.

The Pistons fought back from a 21-point third-quarter deficit but came up short in an 80-77 loss to the Spurs, who rode big games from guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to their sixth straight win.

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"Lots of things we could have done better, but we still come away with a win," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Tim Duncan had 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Spurs, who spoiled the return of Ben Wallace and won the anticipated showdown of the last two NBA champions.

For the fourth time during its streak, San Antonio never trailed. But unlike the first five games - which they won by an average of 22.4 points - the Spurs could not run away from the Pistons.

The Pistons trailed, 63-42, before scoring the last six points of the third quarter. Chauncey Billups- thoroughly outplayed by Parker to that point - scored all 18 of his points in the final period, including a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 78-77 with 7.9 seconds to go.

"Guys like Chauncey got hot in the fourth quarter, made shots, and at one point we couldn't even make our free throws," Ginobili said.

"We could not find a good rhythm at that point," Parker said.

Brent Barry was fouled and made two free throws with 4.9 seconds left before Malik Rose stole an inbounds pass to seal the win for the Spurs, who played very protective basketball in the fourth quarter.

"We made a lot of bad decisions," Popovich said. "We weren't smart in the fourth quarter. We had some fouls, took some not so great shots and made not great passes. We forced a lot of things. We played hard and played good defense, but on the offensive end were not very good.

"To beat this team, coming back from so far down, on their home court would have been huge, but they are well-coached," Pistons coach Larry Brown said.

Parker scored 20 points and Ginobili added 18. The duo combined for 14 points in the first quarter, when the Spurs opened a double-digit lead and got Billups into foul trouble.

"We are playing solid early, being focused coming out, bringing energy," Parker said. Wallace, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, returned from a six-game suspension for his role in the ugly brawl against the Pacers two weeks ago. He scored five points on 2-of-9 shooting and added nine rebounds and two blocks.

"It felt good to be back out there. It would have felt better to pick up the win," he said. "I just need to slow down a little bit. Right now my hands are going a little quicker than my feet."

A 3-pointer by Duncan beat the buzzer and gave the Spurs a 46-37 halftime lead. In the third quarter, San Antonio held Detroit scoreless the first 6 1/2 minutes and without a hoop for the first 7 1/2 minutes, building a 63-42 advantage.

"It would have been easy to give up and pack it in, but we battled back," Wallace said. "We really dug a hole spotting them 21 points, but everybody played hard and brought us back into it."

Rose had 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who limited the Pistons to 35 percent (27-of-76) shooting and held a 49-40 advantage on the glass but almost undid all their good work with 23 turnovers.

"I feel bad for a team that plays that well defensively, but still does not value the ball at the other end," Popovich said.