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Billups scores career-high 37 as Pistons beat Magic

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Chauncey Billups doesn't want to talk
about his credentials for the All-Star Game, much less the NBA's
MVP.

But because of nights such as Tuesday, he has plenty of people
willing to do it for him.

Billups scored a career-high 37 points and Richard Hamilton
added 25 as the Detroit Pistons beat the Orlando Magic 108-99.

"I'd say that 37 points, nine assists and one turnover make a
pretty good statement for the All-Star Game," Pistons coach Flip
Saunders said. "He felt good tonight, and when he feels that good,
we're just going to let him go."

Billups actually scored 40 points against the Magic in 2003, but
that was in a playoff game.

"He carried us tonight," Ben Wallace said. "He's been like
that all season."

Billups was 9-of-15 from the floor, including four 3-pointers,
and 15-of-17 from the line as Detroit won in its first game since
having a nine-game winning streak snapped Saturday at Cleveland.

"I'm just mad I missed those two free throws," Billups said
with a grin. "We had a letdown against Cleveland, and we needed to
turn that around. We couldn't let it continue."

The 2004 Finals MVP doesn't mind the talk that his play had
garnered this year -- he just isn't going to join in.

"I welcome it -- I welcome it," he said. "But I'll let
everyone else talk."

Detroit (25-4) overcame 22 points and 14 rebounds from Dwight
Howard.

"I think we could have had a win tonight," Howard said.
"Detroit stepped it up on the defensive end and won the game, but
the next time, we'll know what to do."

Jameer Nelson added 18 points for the Magic (12-16) and former
Pistons star Grant Hill had 15, but Orlando had its three-game
winning streak snapped.

"That is a very good team," Hill said. "They've only lost one
game at home. They can be beat -- anyone can be beat -- but we played
them at the right time. If we had seen them two weeks ago, it might
have gotten ugly."

The Pistons shot 57 percent in the first half and got 18 points
from Billups, but only led 57-55 because of a rare poor defensive
performance. The Magic shot 59 percent, including an 11-for-17 (65
percent) performance in the second quarter.

"I was disappointed in the defense, and I told them that at
halftime," Saunders said. "These are the dog days, when it seems
like the season is never going to end, and it takes a while to get
your energy levels up. And when you have a gaudy record like we do,
every team is going to come out hard against you."

The Pistons took control with an 11-2 run that put them ahead
92-83 with 7:18 to play. Billups had seven points in the surge,
including a 3-pointer and a spectacular underhanded layup in
traffic.

"In my career, going back to Connecticut, I've never run into a
point guard like Chauncey," Hamilton said. "He wants the ball in
his hands in every tough situation, and he hits big shots and still
keeps his teammates involved."

Game notes
Saunders was named the Eastern Conference coach of the
month for December on Tuesday, making him the first Pistons coach
to win the award in back-to-back months. ... Hamilton picked up
just his fourth blocked shot of the season in the third quarter,
knocking away Steve Francis' jumper. He has never blocked two shots
in the same game. ... Howard had his fifth 20-point game of the
season and his 21st double-double. ... Nelson reached 1,000 career
points in the fourth quarter. ... Billups' previous career high was
36 at Dallas in 2002.