Duncan severly sprains ankle shortly after opening tip

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs insisted they
weren't thinking about Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Pistons
being a possible NBA Finals preview.

Too many things can happen over the next three months, they

Seeing Tim Duncan turn his ankle in gruesome fashion and crumple
to the court in pain could've only pushed postseason thoughts
further from their minds.

Despite losing Duncan moments after the tip, San Antonio put
together a gritty performance.

But Chauncey Billups scored 25 points, including five straight
to blunt a late Spurs' rally, and the Pistons went on to beat San
Antonio 110-101 on Sunday.

Detroit has won 12 straight at home, its longest streak since
the 1990-91 season.

"You want to establish home dominance and we've done that,"
Billups said.

Tayshaun Price scored 22, Rasheed Wallace had 15 and Richard
Hamilton, limited by a sprained left ankle, added 11 points for the
defending NBA champions. Reserves Carlos Arroyo had 13 and Antonio
McDyess added 12.

The Western Conference-leading Spurs, who won the 2003 NBA
title, had won three consecutive games and eight of 10.

They are hoping Duncan's injury is not as bad as it looked.

His right ankle turned sharply after he scored and landed on
Wallace's foot under the basket in the opening minutes.

He immediately grabbed his right foot as he fell to the floor,
where he stayed for a few minutes before being helped off without
putting weight on his right foot. Duncan missed two games earlier
this month with a sprained right ankle.

The Spurs said X-rays were negative and Duncan is day to day.
Before he left the arena, Duncan said he didn't know how serious
the injury was.

"It's the same ankle that he sprained a couple weeks ago, but
this was much worse," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
"It's going to be a while."

The two-time MVP and NBA Finals MVP began the game averaging
21.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this season.

His teammates did their best to make up for the huge void.

Six Spurs scored in double figures: Devin Brown (18), Beno Udrih
(15), Manu Ginobili (14), Rasho Nesterovic (13), Nazr Mohammed (13)
and Tony Parker (12). Ginobili played 16 minutes after missing five
straight games with a strained right groin.

"I think teams have the tendency to let down a little when Tim
is not on the court and I think maybe we did that initially," said
Pistons coach Gar Heard, filling in for Larry Brown.

Robert Horry's 3-pointer with 3 minutes left pulled San Antonio
within two, then Billups ended its comeback hopes.

Billups made a three-point play and a shot under the basket to
give the Pistons a 104-97 lead with just under a minute left.
Detroit scored 11 of the last 15 points.

"Every time we got close, down three or down four, they made a
big basket," Parker said.

Parker said the Spurs have to prepare to play without Duncan.

"We've played without him before, and we just have to keep
going," he said. "It's not like we have a choice. Our other big
guys will have to do more and the rest of us will have to step

The Pistons had dropped 10 of their last 12 meetings with the
Spurs, including an 80-77 setback on Dec. 3 at San Antonio.

Brown missed his fourth straight game and is out indefinitely
after having surgery related to a November hip operation.

The game was tied at 31 in the first, surprising point totals
for the NBA's top two defensive teams.

"Well, it killed both teams' defensive average," Heard said.

Detroit led 62-52 at halftime after 10 lead changes and nine
ties, and 81-76 after three quarters.

Game notes
Duncan was limited to 69 regular-season games last year
because of left knee and ankle injuries after he missed only one
game the previous three years in the regular season. ... Darvin
Ham, who is on Detroit's injured list, rejoined the team Sunday
after missing a game following a dispute with his wife. Deneitra
Ham, arrested early Friday on a domestic assault charge, allegedly
struck her husband on the head with a wine bottle during a domestic
dispute. "Everything is OK," said Ham, who had a scar on the back
of his head. ... The Pistons are 25-7 at home, including a 10-2
mark against the West. Their franchise record for consecutive wins
in a season at home is 21, set during the 1988-89 season... The
Spurs are 19-13 on the road.