Pistons Right Ship, Become First to 40 Wins
Detroit 97, L.A. Clippers 87
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Feb. 8 (Ticker) -- Losing three games in a row was not an option for Tayshaun Prince and the Detroit Pistons.
Prince scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and Rasheed Wallace hit a pair of clutch jumpers late as the Pistons bounced back from their first losing streak of the season with a 97-87 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Tay had us on his back last night and almost carried us to a victory," Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups said. "Tonight, he did it."
Billups said the dog days of the season might have contributed to Detroit's recent struggles.
"I think it's a little mental fatigue," Billups said.
Coach Flip Saunders agreed.
"We've had four sets of back-to-backs over the last 15 days. It has been a grind," Saunders said. "We finished the game tonight. We made plays down the stretch, which is important. Now we're in a situation where we've got a day of rest, play, day of rest, play, day of rest, play - so I think we'll be able to keep a little fresher."
The Clippers, who had won 10 of their previous 11, appeared to be in position to hand the Pistons another loss when rookie Daniel Ewing hit a tough turnaround jumper off a jump ball to draw Los Angeles within 71-70 with 10:37 left.
However, Prince got things back to normal for Detroit, scoring 11 straight Pistons' points to build an 82-72 lead 3 1/2 minutes later. He answered Ewing's jumper with a 3-pointer and hit a pair of free throws before converting consecutive three-point plays around two free throws from Cuttino Mobley.
"The past five or six games, we've been a little bit tired," Prince said. "Our energy level has been down, but in the fourth quarter, it was our time to be aggressive and get to the foul line. We just tried to penetrate, make one or two, get to the foul line and make good things happen."
Los Angeles mounted a small rally by intentionally fouling Pistons center Ben Wallace, who made just 2-of-6 from the line down the stretch. Elton Brand, who scored 30 points, cut the deficit to 87-81 with a dunk at the 2:52 mark.
But Ben Wallace took himself out of the game, and Rasheed Wallace sealed the victory with a 3-pointer and a long jumper that made it 92-81 with 1:51 left.
"I didn't get here by not looking at the big picture," Ben Wallace said. "I know that it's more important for us to get the win than it is for me trying to show that I can make free throws."
"He took himself out, but I wanted him to stay in," Billups said. "I wanted him to keep trying to make them. We'd get the stops on the other end. We've got each other's backs."
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said Rasheed Wallace's two baskets ended his team's hope of a comeback.
"I thought we had a chance until Rasheed made those two that were real daggers for us," Dunleavy said. "They weren't wide open. We had guys coming to him, but he made good shots. Had he missed, who knows what the outcome would be?"
Rasheed Wallace scored 19 points and Chauncey Billups added 18 for Detroit, which had 20 assists on 33 baskets.
Los Angeles played without starting point guard Sam Cassell, who was sidelined with back spasms. Mobley picked up the slack with 27 points in 45 minutes.
"Sam's banged up and I've got a dislocated finger, but I tried to go out there," Mobley said. "I call myself 'Teflon,' but I'm not 'Superman.'"
Shaun Livingston started in place of Cassell and collected a career-high 12 assists but scored only four points.