Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 4)

Series starts 12/29

Game 1: Thursday, December 29th
Game 2: Sunday, February 12th
Game 3: Wednesday, March 22nd
Game 4: Thursday, April 6th

Heat 101

(17-13, 6-9 away)

Pistons 106

(24-3, 12-1 home)

    8:00 PM ET, December 29, 2005

    The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIA 26 26 20 29101
    DET 27 26 26 27106

    Top Performers

    Mia: D. Wade 33 Pts, 6 Reb, 9 Ast, 1 Blk

    Det: C. Billups 30 Pts, 3 Reb, 7 Ast

    Billips, Hamilton lead Pistons in confernce final rematch

    AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons' continuity was too much for the changing Miami Heat.

    Chauncey Billups scored 30 and Richard Hamilton had 25 points and a season-high nine assists Thursday night to lead the Pistons past the new-look Heat 106-101 in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals.

    In their first matchup since the Pistons won at Miami in Game 7 of the series, Detroit made clutch shots and key defensive plays in the final minutes to pull away.

    "We've been together so long and in so many tough situations, we never get rattled," Billups said. "Somebody is always coming up big down the stretch."

    The Pistons have had the same starting five for nearly two years, a span that includes one NBA title and falling just short of a repeat, and four of their starters have been together for three long playoff runs.

    They have a new coach, Flip Saunders, who has made them better offensively while maintaining their defensive prowess.

    "Now, we can score points and lock up, too," Hamilton said.

    Miami added players through free agency and trades in the offseason, and Pat Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy as coach earlier this month.

    "That team has been together -- we haven't," Heat center Alonzo Mourning said.

    Detroit has won a season-high nine straight games. The Pistons are an NBA-best 24-3, with a 27-game record that trails just two teams in NBA history.

    "We're chasing something bigger than Miami, or anybody else," Ben Wallace said. "We have an opportunity to do something special. We're not worried about sending messages."

    Dwyane Wade had 33 points, Shaquille O'Neal scored 26 and Jason Williams chipped in with 20 points for the Heat, who had won seven of nine games.

    "We had the game all the way, we just made a lot of silly mistakes down the stretch," O'Neal said. "You can't do that against a team like Detroit.

    "They are the same as last year. They can be beat."

    Detroit's Rasheed Wallace scored 21 points and Tayshaun Prince added 13.

    The Pistons, off to the best start in franchise history, have won 13 games in December for the first time and have lost only once this month.

    Following 17 lead changes and 15 ties, Rasheed Wallace's 3-pointer gave Detroit an 83-74 lead with 10:49 left.

    Miami then scored seven straight points to pull within two, a deficit the Heat had four more times in the fourth quarter before Williams' steal and basket made it 95-all with 4:11 to go.

    After two more ties, Billups' layup and Rasheed Wallace's fourth 3-pointer put the Pistons ahead 104-99 with 1:06 remaining.

    "Sheed's 3 was a dagger," Billups said. "He has a knack for those big shots."

    Detroit sealed the win on the next two possessions when Prince forced Wade -- guarding him for the first time -- into an errant shot, and Ben Wallace tipped the ball away from O'Neal.

    "It came down to one or two plays and we didn't make them," said Riley, whose record is 6-3 this season. "They are a great team. They can score and they can stop you.

    "They've got everything."

    The game was close and intense, like their playoff series six months ago.

    The Pistons led 27-26 after the first quarter, with Billups scoring 12. Williams and O'Neal each had 11 points.

    Detroit was ahead 53-52 at halftime after 14 ties and 13 lead changes.

    The Heat led for much of the third, but Hamilton put the Pistons ahead late in the quarter and his consecutive assists gave them a seven-point lead -- the largest for either team up to that point -- and they ended the third quarter with a 79-72 lead.

    "I wish I could have been in the stands," Saunders said. ^Notes:@ The 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers and the 1969-70 New York Knicks started 25-2, and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were 24-3 as they started an 18-game winning streak en route to an NBA-record 72-victories. ... The Pistons are the only team in the NBA that has used the same starters in every game this season. ... Wade and Udonis Haslem are the only players who have started every game for the Heat this season. ... Ben Wallace still has a fat lip and five stitches, two days after teammate Antonio McDyess hit him inadvertently with an elbow.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 101 106
    FGM-FGA 42-80 (.525) 37-76 (.487)
    3PM-3PA 4-13 (.308) 7-18 (.389)
    FTM-FTA 13-20 (.650) 25-29 (.862)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-36 8-31
    Assists 24 24
    Turnovers 12 10
    Steals 5 4
    Blocks 4 5
    Fast Break Points 13 15
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (2/0) 15 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 5 9

    Top Performers

    Dwyane Wade Wade
    Points: 33
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Chauncey Billups Billups
    Points: 30
    Reb: 3
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0