Phoenix 108, Detroit 101

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec. 31 (AP) -- Steve Nash isn't going to complain about getting a win at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

But he feels the victory deserves an asterisk because of the injury to Pistons All-Star guard Chauncey Billups.

"It's not like we are going home feeling like we beat the Pistons,'' Nash said after the Phoenix Suns' 108-101 victory Sunday. "We won the game, but we know they didn't have their full team. It's simple math. They still have a lot of talented players, but Chauncey's one of the best in the league.''

Billups strained a calf muscle at the end of Friday's one-point loss to Indiana, and Nash took full advantage of his absence, finishing with 35 points and 12 assists.

"He's been taking over a lot of games lately, and he did it again today,'' Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Amare Stoudemire added a season-high 31 points for the Suns and had 13 rebounds and three blocks.

"We're going to win a lot of games when Amare plays that kind of defense,'' Nash said. "He has a lot of pride and he wants to grow as a defender.''

After the Pistons erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Nash hit consecutive jumpers to put Phoenix back ahead 95-91 with 4:10 to play.

Detroit got within 101-99 on Carlos Delfino's layup with 1:39 left, but he missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer on the next possession, and Nash's three-point play put the game away.

The Pistons acknowledged they didn't have any answers for Nash, especially without Billups.

"If you ask me to be a coach and tell you how to defend him, I don't know,'' Tayshaun Prince of the Pistons said. "Not him.''

The loss was Detroit's third straight.

"When you don't have Chauncey, it puts a lot of stress on your other players,'' Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "I can't fault our guys, they came out and played hard. Unfortunately, they had an MVP who made MVP plays down the stretch.''

Raja Bell of the Suns was ejected when he was given his second technical of the game after a fourth-quarter bumping incident with Richard Hamilton. Hamilton, who scored 31 points for Detroit, also received a technical on the play.

"I knew Rip was trying to goad me into something, and I didn't want any part of it,'' Bell said. "I asked the ref if he saw what Rip was doing, but he didn't do anything. Rip started talking again, and as soon as I said anything, he gave us a double T.''

Bell and Shawn Marion both had 15 points for Phoenix.

Flip Murray, getting more minutes in place of Billups, set season highs of 18 points and seven assists, but Rasheed Wallace scored just 10 points on 4-for-17 shooting, including going 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

"I couldn't put a rock in the ocean,'' Wallace said. "I'm not worried about it. You just go back and get them the next time.''

The Pistons scored the game's first six points, but Phoenix built a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and led 56-50 at halftime. Stoudemire had 19 points in the half for the Suns, while Hamilton led the Pistons with 18.

Detroit got as close as two points during the third, but Phoenix was up 84-78 at period's end.

The Suns led 90-80 early in the fourth, but the Pistons scored the next 11 points, going ahead 91-90 on Murray's fast-break layup with 5:04 to play.

Notes: Billups is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday. "It's feeling better today, but I don't know. I'm not going to play until I feel all the way right.'' ... Detroit hadn't lost three straight since the 2004-05 season. ... The start of the game was delayed for about five minutes by moisture on the court from an apparent leak in the arena roof. ... Bell got his first technical in the second quarter for arguing a call, then loudly swore at a fan seated behind the scorer's table. Bell only shook his head when asked about the incident after the game. Stoudemire was also called for a technical in the second quarter.

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