Pistons Handle Slumping Sixers
Detroit 101, Philadelphia 91
PHILADELPHIA, March 29 (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons sent a message to the Philadelphia 76ers, who may not be there to receive it.
In a potential first-round postseason matchup, the Pistons received a balanced attack and handled the Philadelphia 76ers, 101-91, for their sixth win in seven games.
"It was a good win for us," Billups said. "We came out and played the way we play. We had a balanced attack tonight. Everybody played good defensively and our bench was great."
It was another dispirited loss by the Sixers (32-38), who have dropped three in a row and seven of eight. They are fighting for their postseason lives, although it was hard to tell.
The Pistons are virtually assured of the top seed in the Eastern Conference while the Sixers are trying to hold off Chicago for the eighth and final spot. If that happens, Detroit would meet Philadelphia in the first round.
"We just came in here and tried to get the win," Billups said. "This is a team that we might play in the first round. They're a difficult team. They got guys who can get it going. Of course, they have AI (Allen Iverson), who is the best scorer in this league for the last 10 years."
Judging from Wednesday's game, it won't be much of a series. The Pistons were coming off a tough home win over Dallas on Tuesday and traveled, while the Sixers - off since Sunday - did not show nearly the effort needed to snap their slide.
"I don't know if we could have sent a message because they're the (2004) world champs," Sixers forward Chris Webber said. "We're not in the playoffs, and we're acting like we are. We're acting like we're a fifth, a third, or a second seed. We're acting like we're Miami or San Antonio. It should have been a game where we could have sent a message. The message that we are sending is we don't give a (darn) sometimes."
Billups and Rasheed Wallace made 3-pointers in a 13-2 spurt that gave Detroit an 18-9 lead. The run was fueled by a handful of turnovers by Philadelphia.
"We locked down defensively to get the lead," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We got to do what we wanted to do offensively. We didn't turn the ball over. We forced turnovers early and turnovers late. We took care of the basketball and didn't give them chances to score out of our offense."
Although the Pistons allowed the lead to dwindle to 20-19 later in the first quarter and did not rebuild it to more than six points for the next two periods, they never allowed the Sixers to overtake them.
"We thought we had chances to get back into the game," Iverson said. "We turned the ball over here and there, and they did what great teams do - they took advantage of it. When you are playing against a good team like (Detroit), you have to take advantage of the opportunities and you can't throw the ball away."
McDyess' jumper late in the third quarter extended the margin to 71-63, and Detroit took a 75-68 advantage into the final period before seizing control with a 10-0 run.
"The second half they just lured us to sleep and made open shots," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Once we turned the ball over, they were into the break, somebody gets a wide-open three, and somebody gets one to the basket. It was like they teased us a little bit and then they go up 16 or 17 points."
McDyess made a jumper before reserve guard Lindsey Hunter drained a 3-pointer and stripped Iverson to go in for a layup. Wallace sank another 3-pointer for an 85-68 bulge with 9:51 to go, and it remained at least nine points thereafter.
"That's my job and I have fun doing it," Hunter said. "Thank goodness that I can still do it. I got lucky on the steal on Allen. As long as I create turmoil on the court, I'll keep doing it."
Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince scored 16 points, Wallace added 14 and Hunter nine for the Pistons, who created dozens of extra possessions by grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and forcing 19 turnovers.
"The first half was our own undoing, with turnovers, offensive rebounds and then unforced turnovers," Cheeks said. "The reason why they were leading at halftime was because of the offensive rebounds and turnovers. At halftime we had nine turnovers for 16 points."
Iverson scored 28 points and Webber added 23 for the Sixers, who shot 51 percent (35-of-69). Including last year's first-round playoff series, they have lost 10 of their last 12 meetings with the Pistons.
Philadelphia is just 1 1/2 games in front of Chicago (31-40) for the East's final playoff berth. The teams play twice next week.
"All I can do is believe that we are still alive," Iverson said. "We still have a chance to make it into the postseason, that's the most positive part of all of it. We still have a chance and that is something worth fighting for. It's something worth playing for."