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Billups' go-ahead jumper waved off

1/28/2004

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons gave the Minnesota
Timberwolves a taste of physical basketball, but with one shove too
many.

Latrell Sprewell's driving layup with 57 seconds remaining
helped the Timberwolves to an 80-79 victory over the Pistons on
Friday night.

Sprewell took a feed from Kevin Garnett along the right baseline
and laid the ball off the glass in traffic.

After both teams missed baskets, Chauncey Billups was called for
an offensive foul with 2 seconds remaining as he tried to clear out
Garnett and Sam Cassell on a 10-foot jumper.

Billups put his forearm into Garnett's chest and released his
shot, which went in. But referee James Capers immediately signaled
Billups for the foul, and the Wolves inbounded the ball and ran out
the clock.

"I had both Sam and KG up in the air," Billups said. "I don't
know what they figured."

Cassell pointed out that Garnett would have been able to block
Billups' shot had Billups not put the forearm into him. But that
argument was lost on the Pistons -- coach Larry Brown refused to
meet with the media after the game -- and possibly even on Garnett.

"We got lucky," Billups quoted Garnett as saying when the two
shook hands after the game.

When asked about the call in the locker room, Garnett said, "It
was a 'W.' Great call."

Detroit held Minnesota's "Big Three" of Garnett, Sprewell and
Cassell to a combined 20-for-60 shooting and 48 points. The Wolves
shot just 37 percent but were able to win their 10th straight home
game and eighth of nine overall.

"When you don't shoot well, all of the little stuff has to go
your way," Sprewell said. "Over 82 games, you're going to have
ones like this."

Mehmet Okur scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half as the
Pistons rallied after trailing for much of the game. Detroit lost
its second consecutive game after winning 13 in a row.

Garnett scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. Sprewell
finished with 17 points and Cassell had just nine.

Garnett made consecutive baskets to put Minnesota up 78-75 with
3:12 to play, but Richard Hamilton made a layup with 2:54 remaining
and Okur dunked with 1:56 left to give the Pistons the lead.

The Wolves had been averaging nearly 100 points a game since
Dec. 1, going 19-4 in that span. But Detroit, as it has throughout
much of its recent hot streak, lured its opponent into a more
rugged style.

The Pistons have allowed only one opponent this season -- Dallas
on Jan. 11 -- to reach 100 points.

The Wolves led by as many as 10 points in the first half but
were never able to pull away. Chucky Atkins' 20-footer with 1:36
left in the third quarter gave Detroit a 60-59 lead, its first
since 4-3.

Cassell made consecutive jumpers to put Minnesota back on top,
63-60 at the end of the quarter.

Cassell and Garnett, both probable Western Conference All-Stars,
combined to shoot 4-for-17 from the field in the first half and had
just nine points between them at the break.

Sprewell scored 11 points in the first quarter and Fred Hoiberg
had 10 in the second period to help the Wolves build a five-point
halftime lead.

The Pistons were sluggish at the start for the second straight
game. Their 18-percent shooting equaled their mark from the opening
quarter against Indiana on Tuesday, when the Pacers ended the
Pistons' 13-game winning streak.

Detroit has lost seven straight at Target Center, dating to
March 5, 1997.

Game notes
Wolves coach Flip Saunders said before the game that Hudson
would play 15 to 20 minutes a game while he gets back into playing
shape. "This is his training camp," Saunders said. ... Minnesota
backup center Ervin Johnson was not with the team because of a
death in his family. Saunders said after the game that Johnson
would also miss the Wolves' game Sunday against Phoenix. ... The
Wolves had their third sellout of the season (19,006).