Detroit 113, Denver 109

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., March 26 (AP) -- Flip Saunders was trying to stay optimistic.

He turned out to be a prophet.

With his Detroit Pistons facing what appeared to be an impossible deficit, Saunders tried to give them a last-second pep talk.

"I told them that strange things happen,'' he said. "We might as well try to get something crazy.''

Did they ever.

Rasheed Wallace scooped up a loose ball and hit a 60-foot buzzer- beater to force overtime, then added another key 3 to help the Pistons defeat the Denver Nuggets 113-109 Monday.

Denver appeared to have the game won as they prepared to inbound the ball at midcourt with a 98-95 lead and 1.5 seconds to play.

Marcus Camby's short pass, though, was tipped by Tayshaun Prince, and Wallace threw up a desperation two-handed set shot that banked in as the buzzer sounded.

"We shoot those all the time before the game,'' Wallace said. "This one went in, but it isn't like it won a championship or anything.''

Wallace tried to claim that he called the bank shot, but was drowned out by the jeers of his teammates.

"OK, I'm lying about that,'' he said with a laugh. "But I'll take it either way.''

The shot brought back memories of Chauncey Billups' halfcourt shot to force overtime against the New Jersey Nets in the 2004 playoffs. The Pistons lost that game in triple overtime.

"This one was certainly similar - I know how it feels to have one of those go down,'' Billups said. "At least we didn't lose this time.''

Nuggets coach George Karl knew his team had been beaten by a fluke.

"You could give him a hundred and he wouldn't make one, but he made one,'' he said. "I personally would have liked the ball to be thrown more toward the rim or the corner, but you can't criticize a lucky shot. That was a lucky shot.''

Billups led the short-handed Pistons with a season-high 34 points and 10 assists, Wallace scored 22 and Antonio McDyess added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Detroit played without starters Chris Webber and Richard Hamilton, both home with the flu.

"I hope this one can carry over for us,'' Billups said. "We just hit a shot like that to beat a pretty good team when we were missing a couple guys.''

Camby led the Nuggets with 24 points and added 13 rebounds, while Nene had 21 points and 17 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, though, combined for only 29 on 11-of-33 shooting.

"They came at them with two or three guys, but we had a lot of other guys play good,'' Karl said. "When they slam Iverson and Anthony like that, we have to realize they need to be decoys.''

Denver led 106-103 in overtime, but Wallace hit another tying 3-pointer, this one from a more conventional distance, to tie the game with a minute left.

After a Denver turnover, McDyess made a free throws to give Detroit a one-point lead with 27.6 seconds left.

Wallace then rebounded J.R. Smith's airball and hit two from the line to make it 109-106.

"He carried us to this one,'' Billups said. "The shot at the end of regulation, then the three in overtime, then the free throws.''

Linas Kleiza badly missed a 3-pointer, and Billups clinched the game from the line.

Detroit trailed for most of the fourth, and when Wallace hit two free throws to make it 93-92, Iverson answered with a 15-foot jumper to give the Nuggets a 3-point lead with 26.6 seconds left.

Iverson missed a free throw with 10 seconds left, but it appeared it wouldn't matter when Billups missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the game.

Denver, though, called timeout, giving Wallace a chance for his highlight-reel finish.

"I'm sure George is second-guessing himself for calling that timeout,'' Saunders said. "But that's a one-in-a-million shot. It might never happen again.''

Notes: Prince gave the Pistons a scare when he flipped over Reggie Evans and landed hard on his hip. Prince stayed on the floor for several moments, but walked back to the bench and stayed in the game after the ensuing timeout. ... Webber was on Detroit's active list, despite being at home. The Pistons only have 12 players in town, as Will Blalock and Amir Johnson are both in the D-League. The Nuggets also dressed 11 players as Eduardo Najera was in street clothes due to a leg injury.


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