AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec. 25 (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs learned what the rest of the league already knew - it's tough to beat the Detroit Pistons when Chauncey Billups is on his game.

An early league Most Valuable Player candidate, Billups scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to help the Pistons hold off the Spurs, 85-70, in a rematch of last season's NBA Finals.

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"How he's leading this team, you can definitely say that (Billups is an MVP candidate)," Pistons forward Antonio McDyess said. "Even when he slumped in the first half, look at him come out in the second half and do what he does. How can you take it away from him?"

Ben Wallace collected 10 points and a season-high 21 rebounds and McDyess added 10 and 13 for the Pistons, who failed to defend their championship after losing to the Spurs in seven games in June.

"It was a big game. We looked forward to it cause we felt like that's the other best team in the NBA," Billups said of the Spurs. "The best always want to play the best."

McDyess, who wasn't with the Pistons when they won the championship in the 2003-04 season, said that loss still lingers with him.

"I ain't going to ever forget about it," McDyess said. "It was my first Finals, and to lose like we did will stick with me the rest of my life."

The Pistons, who improved to a league-best 22-3, held a whopping 57-30 advantage on the glass.

"Detroit did a great job on the boards and that was the big thing," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We knew before the game that we were going to have to take care of turnovers on the road and rebounding, but they killed us on the offensive glass. They got 20 points off offensive rebounds, and that was huge."

The Spurs came in with a 15-1 record when outrebounding their opponent and fell to 5-6 when being outrebounded.

"I thought both teams were playing solid defense and there were a lot of rebounds out there," Wallace said. "We just wanted to get to the boards. We weren't making a lot of shots, they weren't making a lot of shots, so I thought the battle was going to be more on the boards. We went to the boards and got it done."

Detroit, which held just a 59-55 advantage in the first minute of the fourth quarter, opened a 66-57 cushion on a 3-pointer by Rasheed Wallace with 8:59 remaining. Billups added back-to-back shots from the arc for a 73-62 lead with 5:27 to play, and after San Antonio pulled within single digits, the guard nailed a jumper for a 77-66 lead with 2:33 left that all but sealed it.

Tim Duncan collected 18 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which lost for the third time in five games to fall to 21-7 overall.

"They just outplayed us, honestly," Duncan said. "They took the game over down the stretch."

The Spurs jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead but scored just two more points the rest of the quarter to set a new franchise record for fewest points in the opening period. Tony Parker scored all eight points for San Antonio but mustered just 11 in the final three quarters.

"I thought we were locked in," Billups said. "We were focused, man. When you play a team like that, you've got to be focused. If not, they can run you out of here."

The Pistons are tied for the fourth-best start in NBA history.