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Mavs fend off Billups, Pistons in second half

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- When the Dallas Mavericks play the
Detroit Pistons, a dominating defensive performance isn't a
surprise.

Unless it comes from the Mavericks.

Dallas held Detroit to 23 points in the game's first 22 minutes
and went on to beat the slumping Pistons 95-88 on Monday night.

"I'm not worried about how many points they have or what their
shooting percentage was," new Dallas coach Avery Johnson said.
"I'm happy with the fact that we are taking teams deeper into the
shot clock and making them rush shots. Earlier in the season, that
didn't happen -- we were only playing defense for 12 or 14 seconds.
To win, you have to play defense for the whole 24."

Shawn Bradley knows that tough defense hasn't always been the
Mavericks' trademark.

"We know our offense is going to roll -- we have All-World
scorers out there," he said. "But the X factor for us is going to
be maintaining a solid defense. Tonight, we beat Detroit with
mental toughness. That's not something this team has exactly been
known for."

The Mavericks have won six of seven, while the defending
champions lost for the fourth time in five games.

"We definitely have to go back to what got us winning
basketball games," said Tayshaun Prince. "I'm hoping we can
regain our focus."

Josh Howard led Dallas with 24 points, while Dirk Nowitzki added
22 and Keith Van Horn had 17 off the bench.

"That was like a playoff game," Howard said. "It's good to
beat the champs. I know they are in a slump, but they played a
terrific game tonight."

Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 26 and Richard Hamilton
added 23, but the Pistons bench only managed a season-low two
points. Detroit's top perimeter backups -- Lindsey Hunter, Carlos
Arroyo and Carlos Delfino -- have gone scoreless in 41 combined
minutes over the last two games.

"I thought our starters played hard, but we have to find a way
to get some production from the bench," Pistons interim coach Gar
Heard said. "We still have a lot of new guys that we are trying to
work in, and we have not had a lot of time to practice."

Dallas led by 17 points with 90 seconds left in the first half,
but Detroit went on a quick 8-0 run to pull within 42-33 at the
intermission. The Pistons continued the rally after the break and
went ahead 51-50 on Billups' three free throws midway through the
third.

Dallas regained the lead late in the quarter, then saw Devin
Harris beat Arroyo down the floor and hit a buzzer-beating
3-pointer to give them a 70-65 edge.

"I thought that was the turning point of the game," Heard
said. "It would have been easier to go into the fourth down two.
We have to stop the ball there."

Billups hit three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the
fourth period, but Van Horn had two 3s and a short jumper to help
the Mavericks stay ahead 80-74 with 9:20 to go.

Howard's three-point play with 6:07 remaining go made it 86-76
and the Pistons never threatened again.

Game notes
The teams combined for only 26 points in the second quarter,
with Dallas scoring 14. ... Pistons coach Larry Brown (surgery)
missed his ninth straight game. His return is still uncertain. The
Pistons are 8-8 without Brown this year. ... The Pistons' bench got
their only points on Darvin Ham's dunk in the last minute of the
third quarter. The Dallas reserves, led by Van Horn, scored 26. ...
Rasheed Wallace picked up a third-quarter technical, his eighth in
the last 11 games. ... The road team won both games in the season
series.