AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 14 (Ticker) -- En guard!

With a brave boost from the backcourt of Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, the defending champion Detroit Pistons showed the San Antonio Spurs they are prepared to duel to the end with a determined 96-79 victory in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

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Returning home, the Pistons used heart, hustle and some hard fouls to stay alive in the series. They shut down both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili as they turned the tables on the Spurs, who had dominated all facets in winning the first two games.

"That's how they play. That's who they are," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Hamilton scored 24 points as he shook free of the shadow of Bruce Bowen and rediscovered his jumper. He sank 11-of-23 shots and opened the court for his teammates by running around screens all game.

"We have to come out here and help each other out," Hamilton said. "We have to be the ones that are aggressive, and I think we did that tonight."

"Most of our good shots come off the screen situations or making the extra pass," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "We're not a dribble-drive or post-up team, so to speak, like them, and that's where Rip is at his best."

Billups, the Finals MVP a year ago, added 20 points and seven assists as he provided direction and a spark for what had been a struggling offense. He made 6-of-12 shots, including all three of Detroit's 3-pointers.

"You know how big this game is, you know what it means and you know the kind of desperation," Billups said. "You've got to play without fear."

"Whenever there is a big play to make, he is the guy they are going to look to make it," Duncan said.

Together, the guards helped the Pistons become the first team to hang more than 90 points on the Spurs in any of their 14 Finals games.

"I think that our offensive execution by far was the best tonight," Brown said. "Maybe it's the best it's been in the playoffs because of the quality of the opponent."

The quality was lacking for the Spurs. They were caught with their guard down in the form of Ginobili, who had strafed the Pistons for 53 points in the first two games but was limited to seven on 2-of-6 shooting.

Ginobili's aggressiveness was limited by a bruised knee and twisted ankle both suffered in the first half. He was on the receiving end of some hard fouls and was tracked better by Tayshaun Prince.

"It was hard for me to come back into the game after being on the bench for a couple of minutes," said Ginobili, who had six turnovers. "My leg gets cold, so it's hard to warm it up again. But ... I just didn't play well.

Duncan had 14 points and 10 rebounds but made just 5-of-15 shots as he was hounded by Ben Wallace, who emerged from his funk to collect 15 points, 11 boards and five blocks - all in the first quarter as he set the tone.

"There was nothing wrong with me," Wallace said. "I just wasn't playing as active as I should be playing. I just went out tonight and played better basketball than I played in those first two basketball games."

"I don't know if it was a home-cooked meal or sleeping in his own bed, but his energy level, it was like night and day," Billups said.

Prince and Antonio McDyess scored 12 points each for the Pistons, who shot 47 percent (40-of-85) and won all the hustle and muscle stats, including a 44-37 edge on the glass that led to 20 second-chance points.

Game 4 is in Detroit on Thursday, and the Pistons have some guarded optimism.

"I think our guys have unbelievable respect for them and realize it's going to take our very best to make this a competitive series," Brown said.

The Spurs weathered the early energy provided by the sellout crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills and Wallace. They held a 27-21 lead after one quarter and withstood a four-minute drought in the second period to cling to a 42-41 halftime lead.

In addition to Ginobili getting dinged twice, there was more rough stuff. Bowen hit Hamilton in the face after coming around a screen and Billups clobbered Parker in the head to stop a driving layup.

With Duncan off the floor, the Spurs scored seven straight points to take a 56-54 lead. They still held a 63-61 edge when Popovich rested point guard Tony Parker, who scored 21 points.

The Pistons turned up the pressure on rookie Beno Udrih and forged a 9-2 run to take the lead for good.

"We tried to give Tony Parker a rest for one minute and the dam burst from that point on," Popovich said.

Billups sank a 3-pointer and reverse layup to jump-start an 11-0 surge. Hamilton capped it at 84-69 with a jumper at the 6:37 mark.

"I've got to pick my spots when to be aggressive and when not to," Billups said. "That was a point where I wanted to be aggressive during that little spurt."

Another jumper by Hamilton made it 90-76, giving the Pistons the magic number and sealing matters with 3:14 to play.