HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Not even the painfully slow Houston Rockets could slow down the Detroit Pistons.

The unbeaten Pistons matched their best start in 17 years, using their defense down the stretch for a 78-70 victory over the Rockets, who played most of the second half without superstar Tracy McGrady.

Richard Hamilton scored 19 points - none in the fourth quarter - for the Pistons (8-0), the NBA's only unbeaten team. Detroit matched the start of the 1988 club that went on to win the franchise's first championship and is one shy of the team record set by the 1970 squad.

Under new coach Flip Saunders, much has been made of Detroit's improved offense, which eclipsed 110 points in four of the first seven games. However, the Pistons showed the Rockets that they can still play knock-down, drag-out basketball.

The Rockets do not play an up-tempo style and were slowed further by the third-period departure of McGrady, whose cranky back acted up again. In 32 minutes, he managed six points on 3-of-16 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Without McGrady, the Rockets made a charge in the fourth quarter, cutting a 57-48 deficit to 67-66 with 5:11 remaining on a free throw by Stromile Swift, who had 12 points and nine rebounds.

But the Pistons clamped down thereafter, allowing just two hoops. Leading the charge were Rasheed and Ben Wallace, who controlled the paint on both ends.

Ben Wallace went around Yao Ming for a reverse layup. Yao responded with a tough shot in the lane, but Rasheed Wallace scored inside on consecutive possessions for a 74-68 lead.

Ben Wallace drew Yao's sixth foul with 2:21 left and Rasheed Wallace sank a jumper for a 76-68 advantage with 2:04 to play. Swift scored on a follow shot, but Rasheed Wallace swatted away a drive by David Wesley and Chauncey Billups sank two foul shots with 1:01 to go.

Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince scored 14 points each and Ben Wallace pulled down 16 rebounds for the Pistons, who were outrebounded, 52-38. Rasheed and Ben Wallace blocked four shots each.

Yao had 20 points and 11 boards and Wesley added 14 and nine for the Rockets, who have lost two in a row. Houston committed 19 turnovers, including nine by Yao.