Before a big matchup against the Eastern Conference leaders, the Detroit Pistons have another game against a struggling team from the West.
The Pistons try for their seventh straight win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Tuesday, hoping to have Chauncey Billups back in the lineup after a one-game absence.
Detroit (43-16) has won four of its last five, including a 103-73 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday to cap a four-game road trip. Despite Billups being out for personal reasons, the Pistons had little trouble against the team with the fourth-worst record in the West, shooting 54.3 percent and jumping out to a 55-42 lead at the half. Tayshaun Prince had 22 points and 10 assists, while Rasheed Wallace added 17 points.
"When we have a good player out, especially one of our main guys, I think it's important that we depend on each other," said Prince, who was the only starter to play more than 27 minutes. "It gives me more of an opportunity to play more a 'point-forward,' especially when Chauncey's out. I just tried to see over the defense and make plays."
It's uncertain whether Billups, who is averaging 17.6 points and 7.1 assists, will be back Tuesday, but it may not matter. Detroit has won six straight against Seattle overall and eight of the last nine at home.
The biggest challenge for the Pistons may be making sure their starters get some rest. On Wednesday, Detroit visits Boston for the final regular-season meeting between the top two teams in the East, trying to cut into Boston's 3 1/2-game lead atop the conference.
Seattle (16-43), meanwhile, is looking to build off a 111-108 overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday in the opener of a seven-game road trip. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and was just the team's sixth in 28 road games.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points and Chris Wilcox added 18 and 15 rebounds. Seattle shot 55.0 percent and reached the 100-point mark for just the second time in 10 games.
The Sonics are 10-11 when hitting the century mark.
"Guys did a great job of playing through adversity tonight," Durant said. "They came out played very hard. We made a few turnovers, but we played through that and it's a good win."
This is the longest road trip of the season for Seattle, and coach P.J. Carlesimo was cautious about getting too excited over Sunday's win, which came against the worst team in the West.
"It doesn't mean a thing if we don't do a good job in the next six games," said Carlesimo, whose team has the third-worst record in the conference. "Obviously, hopefully, we will go into Detroit and Milwaukee in a more positive frame. We are just such a different team when we compete at a real high level."
Detroit beat Seattle 107-103 on Nov. 11, as Richard Hamilton had 32 points while Durant scored 19. Five of the last six games between the teams have been decided by fewer than eight points.
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