NBA's best (Pistons) rout NBA's worst (Hawks)

ATLANTA (AP) -- The NBA's best and worst teams followed the
script perfectly.

Chauncey Billups scored 23 points, Richard Hamilton added 21 and
the Detroit Pistons extended their winning streak to five in a row,
routing the hapless Atlanta Hawks 117-89 Wednesday night.

Ben Wallace handled the dirty work with 18 rebounds and six
blocks. Led by Maurice Evans, Detroit got a boost from its bench in
the decisive second quarter.

"The good teams in this league are the ones that can bring it
every night," Wallace said. "We've done a good job of doing that
this season."

No kidding. The Pistons boosted the NBA's best record to 31-5,
and all five victories in their latest winning streak have been by
double figures.

At the opposite end of the spectrum: Atlanta fell to 10-27,
already 21 games behind the Pistons in the Eastern Conference.

Detroit got off to a rocky start, missing 11 of its first 16
shots. The Hawks were even worse, starting out 1-of-11, but still
managed to claim a 19-18 lead at the end of the ugly quarter.

"I know we tightened up the screws a little bit, and got more
serious about the game, after the first quarter," Billups said.
"When we did that, we kind of imposed our will on the game."

The Pistons' bench helped turn things around in the second
period, with Evans scoring 12 of his 14 points and Antonio McDyess
chipping in with eight. Three of Detroit's backups finished in
double figures.

"The bench was big for us," Wallace said. "They came in the
game and gave us a lot of energy. They got the wheels turning, and
we got some easy baskets."

The Pistons made a staggering 16 of 22 shots in the period,
scoring at will against Atlanta's feeble defensive effort. Evans
hit a 3-pointer that gave Detroit its first double-digit lead,
42-32, and finished off the quarter with a barely contested reverse
lay-in with one-tenth of a second remaining for a commanding 59-40

"It's very important to get the bench in there and gives the
stars a blow," Evans said, "especially when we're playing a

The Pistons travel to New York on Thursday to face the Knicks.

Everyone got in on the act. Carlos Arroyo left his defender
behind with a wicked crossover dribble before dishing the ball to
Wallace, who found Tayshaun Prince lingering all by himself at the
3-point line. The jumper hit nothing but net, of course.

Billups, who connected on four 3-pointers, offered some
encouragement to the lowly Hawks.

"I've been there. It's tough," he said. "But they've got some
great young guys. That's the bottom line. They're going to be great
if they can just keep it together."

Al Harrington had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who
were buried by Detroit's 41-point second period.

"Our plan was to limit their bench," Harrington said. "If you
give up 40 points in any one quarter, you're going to lose the

Detroit shot 54 percent and equaled its highest-scoring game of
the year, a 117-84 victory over Toronto in November.

The Pistons kept up the pressure in the final minutes,
alternating between rim-rocking dunks and open 3s that stretched
the margin to as much as 31 points. Darko Milicic, the Pistons'
seldom-used first-round pick from 2003, entered the game late to
mock cheers, making his first appearance in four games and only the
20th of the season.

"We ran some things we hadn't run in a while, just to dust them
off a little bit and do them in a game-type situation," Pistons
coach Flip Saunders said.

Game notes
Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson sat courtside with a
former teammate, catcher Johnny Estrada, who was traded to Arizona
last month. ... The Hawks played their third straight game without
G Tyronn Lue, sidelined with a strained back. Atlanta also was
missing little-used C John Edwards, out because of lower back pain.
... Wallace reached a couple of career milestones. The first
rebound of the night gave him 7,000 overall. He also passed 1,500
blocks in his career. ... Hawks G Salim Stoudamire missed his first
free throw of the season at Philips Arena. The rookie had made 30
in a row. ... Atlanta has lost six straight home games to the
Pistons, last beating them at Philips Arena on Dec. 7, 2002.