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Spurs win ninth straight against short-handed Pistons

4/7/2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Tim Duncan felt good for San Antonio
and bad for Detroit after the Spurs won their ninth straight and
the Pistons lost Ben Wallace.

Duncan had 25 points and 21 rebounds as San Antonio extended the
league's longest current winning streak by defeating the
shorthanded Pistons 89-83 Sunday.

Wallace went down with a sprained medial collateral ligament in
his left knee when teammate Tayshaun Prince fell into him late in
the first half. The All-Star, who leads the league in rebounds and
blocks, will undergo an MRI exam Monday to help determine if he'll
play again this season.

"It's unfortunate,'' Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "It
looks like we will lose him for some number of games, we're just not sure how many. That's a blow.''

Duncan was sidelined for the final four games of the 1999-2000
season -- and the playoffs -- with a knee injury.

"I did mine a different way, but you still cringe whenever you
see somebody go down, especially when you saw his knee buckle,''
Duncan said. "You just have to kind of hope for the best.''

If the news on Wallace's status is not good, it will crushing to
Detroit.

The Pistons lost their third in a row and dropped a half-game
behind New Jersey for the best record in the Eastern Conference
after owning the top spot since March 8. They lead Indiana by 1½
games in the Central Division.

Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said the team expects to activate
Zeljko Rebraca on Monday. The center has been on the injured list
since Jan. 6 because of an irregular heartbeat.

Carlisle said the results of Wallace's MRI will determine if he
goes on the injured list.

Detroit also was without point guard Chauncey Billups, its
second-leading scorer. Billups sat out due to a sprained ankle and said his status is day-to-day.

The victory pulled the Spurs within a half-game of Dallas for
the best record in the Western Conference.

The Spurs' 38-7 record in 2003 is the best in the league, and
they have won 17 of their last 18 road games.

But if San Antonio doesn't overtake the Mavericks in the Midwest
Division, it could face the three-time defending champion Los
Angeles Lakers in the first round. The Lakers eliminated San
Antonio from the playoffs the past two seasons.

Duncan said "we're not one of them,'' when asked about teams
motivated to avoid the Lakers in the first round.

"It doesn't really matter who we face,'' Duncan bristled.
"We're trying to get that No. 1 spot. If that works out, that's
great. If it doesn't and we play the Lakers in the first round,
we'll play them in the first round.

"We're not afraid to play them.''

The Pistons had not lost consecutive games at home until losing
to Toronto and Indiana this week. They now have lost three straight
at The Palace after falling to San Antonio for the sixth
consecutive time.

Detroit reserves Corliss Williamson and Jon Barry scored 15
each. Richard Hamilton scored 13.

With 1:07 left in the first half, Wallace was standing under the
basket when Prince fell backward into him after defending Tony
Parker on a layup. Wallace buried his face in his hands after going
down.

He finished with 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Wallace said, "I don't know,'' when asked how serious he
thought the injury was as he limped away from the arena without crutches.

The Spurs opened a 15-point cushion with a 11-2 run to start the
second half. San Antonio led 68-53 after three quarters.

Detroit cut its deficit to five with 5:08 left, but couldn't get
closer until Williamson made a layup with 32.2 seconds left to make
it 87-83. Parker answered with a basket on the ensuing possession.

With Billups out and Chucky Atkins sidelined for a ninth
straight game with a bruised left knee, the Pistons started
seldom-used reserve Hubert Davis at point guard and were forced to play Hamilton and Prince at the point.

Duncan had a 20-point, 20-rebound game for a career-high sixth
time this season. He had five such games during the 2000-01 season.

Parker scored 19, Speedy Claxton had 16 and Malik Rose added 14
points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs. David Robinson missed the
game with a sore right knee.

Game notes
San Antonio center Kevin Willis was ejected with 9:28 left
in the game. He was called for a flagrant foul after colliding with
Detroit's Danny Manning in the lane after Duncan made a shot, then
was ejected for arguing about the call. ... Before the game, the
Pistons honored Robinson, who is retiring after the season.
Robinson scored the first point at The Palace in 1988. ... The
Spurs play at Dallas on April 16 in their regular season finale.