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Pacers drop third straight game

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Rasheed Wallace walked to the bench for the
last time Thursday night and delivered a blunt statement to the
Indiana Pacers and their fans.

"They can't beat us," he screamed.

If the Pacers didn't understand after losing in last season's
Eastern Conference finals, they certainly do now: There is no
home-court advantage in this rough-and-tumble rivalry.

Chauncey Billups led a balanced scoring attack, finishing with
20 points and five assists as the Detroit Pistons defeated the
Pacers 88-76.

Since the Nov. 19 brawl between Pacers players and Pistons fans
after Ben Wallace shoved Ron Artest, the teams have met twice in
Indianapolis. Both times, the Pistons have won.

Indiana won in its only trip to Detroit and returns March 25 to
the Palace of Auburn Hills for the first time since the infamous
melee.

It was the Pistons' second straight victory. For the Pacers, who
were playing nearly at full strength for the first time since the
brawl, it was a big blow. They've lost three straight and five of
seven to drop under .500 for only the second time this season.

"I've got to stay positive with this group," coach Rick
Carlisle said. "There are a lot of games to play and this team
will get better."

As expected, the game was full of emotion.

Indiana fans booed loudly when the Pistons were introduced and
booed again each time Ben Wallace scored. The game also was marred
by five technical fouls, and fans jawed with Pistons players,
sometimes playfully, in the closing minutes.

Ben Wallace finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Rasheed
Wallace added 13 points and seven rebounds and Tayshaun Prince
scored 16 points and had seven rebounds primarily against Stephen
Jackson, who is trying to get back into game shape after serving a
30-game suspension for his role in the brawl. It was just Jackson's
second game back.

"We tried to go at Steve Jack because we knew he didn't have
the legs," Rasheed Wallace said. "We had to get Tay involved
early, and I think what's sparked it for us."

Afterward, Reggie Miller denied a broadcast report that he had
told Pacers officials and teammates that he would retire after this
season.

"If and when, I'll have the first conversation with Charles
(Barkley) and Cheryl Miller," he said, referring to his sister.
"Right now, I'm considering getting us off a three-game losing
streak. I'll be there all year. That's the only thing I'm focused
on."

The game also got off to a contentious start.

Just two days after five Pacers players appeared in a Detroit
courtroom to face misdemeanor charges from the brawl, Miller and
Rasheed Wallace were each called for technicals in the first nine
minutes. By halftime, Carlisle had also drawn a technical. O'Neal,
who missed 15 games because of the November fight, was called for
another technical early in the third quarter.

Not surprisingly, the Pacers' relied on O'Neal and Jackson to
carry the scoring burden.

O'Neal finished with 27 points and nine rebounds while Jackson
scored 11 points, had five rebounds and three assists. Fred Jones
added 14 points off the bench, and point guard Jamaal Tinsley was
especially ineffective after missing Wednesday night's game in
Boston with the flu.

Tinsley, still ailing, missed all six of his shots. He finished
with two points and four assists and was in foul trouble most of
the night.

The Pistons used runs of 13-2 and 6-0 to build a 39-25 lead they
never relinquished.

"We know what it takes to win games now," Ben Wallace said.
"We've been to the promised land and we know what it takes to get
back there."

The Pacers rallied just before halftime, scoring the last five
points to close to 47-40. But Detroit opened the second half by
scoring five straight points and pulled away with a 7-0 spurt that
made it 66-51 with 2:18 left in the third quarter. The Pacers got
no closer than eight the rest of the way.

"I like playing here, it's a good rivalry," Rasheed Wallace
said. "Their fans are real rowdy and hard on the opposing team and
I like coming in here and playing against these guys."

Game notes
Indiana has now lost the second game in a back-to-back set
five straight times. ... Prince iced his left calf each time he
went to the bench Thursday night. ... Miller made one 3-pointer to
give him 2,499 in his career. ... Miller also made one of three
free throws to move within two of passing Wilt Chamberlain for 11th
on the NBA's all-time list.