CHICAGO, April 11 (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups
and the Detroit Pistons
showed the Chicago Bulls that they still have some growing up to
Billups drained a jumper with eight seconds remaining in
overtime as the Pistons clinched the Central Division title with
an 85-84 victory over the Bulls.
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The Pistons (50-27) won their third division title in the last
four years and wrapped up the Eastern Conference's second seed.
They also won for the 10th straight time in Chicago.
"When you are one of the elite teams, that's where you have to
start at, which is winning the division," Billups said. "We
won't finish with the best record in the conference, but we are
happy where we are."
"It's nice to lock up the central, but we have bigger fish to
fry," Pistons center Ben Wallace
said. "We are not just going to
let teams come in and do what they want now because we have the
second seed. We are going to play hard the last five games."
It looked like the young Bulls, who are fighting to secure
home-court advantage in the first round of their first playoff
appearance in seven years, would end their home struggles
against the defending NBA champions.
"The whole fourth quarter and the overtime we didn't do a good
job having composure or setting our screens," Bulls coach Scott Skiles
said. "We have done a good job with those things most of
the season. Tonight we didn't."
Rookie Andres Nocioni
hit two 3-pointers around a basket by Kirk Hinrich
, giving the Bulls an 81-73 lead with 2:49 left.
But the battle-tested Pistons fought back, pulling within 82-80
with 41 seconds left when Billups pulled up and drained a shot
from the arc.
"That team played very hard. If you are going to beat them you
have to beat them," Billups said. "In the playoffs they are
going to be dealt with and not just now but over the next four
or five years."
After Chicago rookie Ben Gordon
sank two foul shots, Rasheed Wallace
hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to go and Antonio Davis
committed a turnover as Detroit applied pressure in the
Following a timeout, the Pistons went to Billups, who shook free
of rookie Chris Duhon
with a nifty crossover dribble and sank a
jumper from just above the circle.
"They showed what kind of team they are," Gordon said. "That was
a game that was a toss-up, but down the stretch they made more
key plays than us."
After a timeout, the Pistons disrupted the Bulls' inbounds play.
The ball ended up with Gordon, who was guarded closely by
and threw up a desperation airball from 3-point
range as time expired.
"We were never out of it. We played great defensively when we
had to," Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince
said. "When we needed
to make plays, we made them."
Billups scored 28 points and Wallace 14 for the Pistons, who
extended their winning streak to seven games overall and reached
50 wins for the fourth straight season.
Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 16 rebounds for Chicago
(44-33), which had its lead over fifth-place Washington and
Indiana reduced to two games with five to play.
"Definitely, it was an emotional game. Both teams fought it out
out there," Chandler said. "It looked like we had a win in
overtime but we didn't protect the ball down the stretch."
In what was a tight and sloppy game for the first three
quarters, the Pistons opened a 64-58 lead with with 8:19
remaining on a dunk by Rasheed Wallace.
Hinrich, who scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter,
sank a 3-pointer to trigger a 9-3 run. Gordon capped the surge
with two free throws with 4:09 left to tie the game.
It was a rough night for both Hinrich and Gordon, who combined
to make just 12-of-39 shots. Nocioni also went just 4-of-14
from the floor.
"It wasn't about how many shots we made, it's about winning,"
Gordon said. "It's frustrating that we lost but I don't think
our missed shots determined the outcome of the game."
also struggled for the Pistons, going 2-of-17
from the field. The 86 percent career free-throw shooter also
missed two foul shots with 60 seconds left in overtime.
Prince had a chance to win it for the Pistons in regulation, but
missed a baseline jumper as time expired.
added 12 points and 13 rebounds and Prince scored 11
points for the Pistons, who shot percent 39 percent (34-of-87)
and improved to 7-1 in overtime.
"We are the defending champs we play like this every night," Ben
Wallace said. "When we need stops we get stops and when we
need turnovers we get turnovers. That's what we hang our hats
Gordon netted 14 points and Nocioni 12 for Chicago, which shot
just 35 percent (33-of-94) and committed 19 turnovers.
"It's disappointing when you fight the whole game and don't get
a win," Hinrich said. "In overtime there were a lot of things we