Detroit 92, New Jersey 91

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec. 26 (AP) -- For most of Tuesday night, the Detroit Pistons were angry about the officiating.

In the end, though, the New Jersey Nets were the ones screaming.

Chauncey Billups made two free throws with 7.2 seconds left, and Vince Carter didn't get a last-second call as the Pistons won their fifth straight, 92-91.

``We come to work, and we work extremely hard at this, only for the officials to screw us,'' Jason Kidd said. ``We fought, but that doesn't mean anything when you have the officials take over the game like that. You go with the Three Blind Mice, and it's just sad that Tom (Washington) screwed up that game for us.''

Billups, who missed nine of his 10 shots from the floor, was fouled by Carter on a fast break after Kidd missed a 3-pointer that could have clinched the game.

``I love games like this,'' Billups said. ``Even though I struggled, it's great to be in games that you know are going down to the wire and that someone's going to have to make a play.''

On the ensuing possession, Carter missed a pull-up jumper with 1.5 seconds to go after a collision that knocked Rasheed Wallace to the court. Nets coach Lawrence Frank argued the call and had to be restrained by assistant coaches from going after the officials at the buzzer.

``It's obviously a foul,'' Frank said. ``But that's how the game works. They aren't going to change it. Never in the history of the game have they reversed a call.''

Even Wallace, who picked up one of Detroit's three second-half technicals, wasn't sure what the officials were going to do.

``That one could have gone either way,'' he said. ``He put his shoulder down, and I tried to take a charge. Earlier in the game, even earlier in the fourth, they probably call that.''

Wallace wasn't supposed to be guarding Carter on the play, but jumped in when Tayshaun Prince tripped.

``Sheed made an unbelievable play there,'' Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. ``Tay goes down, and they've got one of the premier scorers in the league at the top of the key with no one guarding him. You generally don't want to be playing 5-on-4 with a one-point lead and five seconds to go.''

The Pistons got 21 points apiece from Wallace and Richard Hamilton. Carter had 28 and Richard Jefferson added 18 for the Nets, who have lost three in a row. Kidd finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Nets took a 60-58 lead on Carter's 3-pointer with five minutes left in the third, and were still up 68-67 at period's end. Carter and Kidd combined for 18 points in the period.

Carter kept going in the fourth, scoring eight points in the first four minutes to help the Nets take an 80-73 lead.

The Pistons rallied to tie it at 81 on Hamilton's 3-pointer with 5:17 left, and after Jason Collins' jumper, Hamilton put Detroit in front with a three-point play.

The teams traded the lead for the next several possessions, and the Nets led 90-88 after Collins' free throw with 1:36 left. Prince tied the game with two foul shots with 1:20 left, but Billups fouled Jefferson at the other end, and he split his shots.

Wallace's turnaround jumper went in-and-out, but he made up for it by winning a scramble for the rebound of Kidd's miss and starting the game-winning fast break.

``If we don't get that break, we probably call a timeout,'' Saunders said. ``But we had a chance to go, so I let them take it.''

Detroit dominated early, leading 15-6 after just four minutes and keeping the advantage for the entire first half. The Nets closed the margin against Detroit's reserves in the second, but the Pistons still held a 47-39 edge at halftime. Wallace had 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

Notes: Antonio McDyess and Billups picked up third-quarter technicals, and Wallace got one in the fourth, all for arguing calls. ... Saunders had a discussion with a heckler during the second quarter. After the fan called for Carlos Delfino to be benched, Saunders replied ``You guys complain when I don't play the bench, and now you don't want me to play them. Make up your minds!''


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