AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons almost got lost
in "upset city."
Before Sunday's game against Houston, Pistons coach Flip
Saunders used that term to describe the stretch from mid-January
through the All-Star break for winning teams. Then the owners of
the NBA's best record nearly became a victim of it.
Chauncey Billups had 24 points and nine assists, and the Pistons
overcame Tracy McGrady's season-high 43 points to beat the Rockets
99-97 for their seventh straight win.
Detroit (33-5) had to sweat out a potential go-ahead or tying
basket in the last 3 seconds, as Houston's Luther Head missed a
3-pointer and Juwan Howard's attempted tip bounced off the rim.
Richard Hamilton also had 24 for the Pistons, but split a pair
of free throws with 10 seconds to play to set up the final sequence
"I like games like this much better than the ones we win by 10,
15 or 20 points," Billups said. "I don't like playing games like
McGrady was only 2-for-8 from the field in the fourth quarter as
Houston (13-26) lost for the eighth time in nine games.
The Rockets led 88-87 in the fourth quarter before Maurice Evans
hit a 3-pointer with 6:28 to play that gave Detroit the lead for
Detroit outrebounded the Rockets 41-37 and had an 18-7 advantage
in bench points. Evans gave the Pistons 11 points in 21 solid
minutes filling in for Tayshaun Prince, who went to the bench in
the first quarter after picking up two fouls.
"He has the ability to make big shots," Saunders said. "He
gives us good energy and athleticism."
The Pistons had a 55-46 halftime lead, with McGrady keeping
Houston close by scoring 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting. He was
even better in the third quarter, when he was 7-for-10 and scored
16 points. He and David Wesley had baskets in the last 7 seconds of
the period to cut the Detroit lead to 78-77.
"They're a different team with Tracy," Saunders said. "He was
McGrady, playing in his second game since missing five with back
spasms, was on the floor for 41 minutes as Rockets coach Jeff Van
Gundy used a three-man bench. He said Detroit's performance showed
a glaring difference between the teams.
"They don't need a player like me because their starting five
is a (great) five," McGrady said. "They all know their roles and
nobody tries to do too much."
Saunders said a late play, where Rasheed Wallace found Ben
Wallace for an alley-oop dunk with 57 seconds to play to put the
Pistons ahead 98-94, showed his team's resolve.
"You can't be afraid to make plays," he said. "There's about
1 percent of the players in the league that might make that play.
"Sometimes you're going to win them and sometimes you're going
to lose them, but you can't be afraid to make them."
Rockets forward Ryan Bowen left the game early in the second
quarter after complaining of an irregular heartbeat. Van Gundy said
the six-year veteran has experienced the condition before and was
removed from the game as a precaution. He was not hospitalized.
Ben Wallace had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who
are 17-3 at the Palace of Auburn Hills this season. Rasheed Wallace
Howard scored 16 and had 10 rebounds for the Rockets.
McGrady's 43 points are the most the Pistons have allowed a
player this season. ... Rasheed Wallace was assessed his 11th
technical foul of the season in the third quarter. ... Gs Jon Barry
(calf strain) and Moochie Norris (foot), and F Stromile Swift (eye)
did not travel with the Rockets. ... Sunday's crowd of 22,076 was
the Pistons' 104th consecutive sellout.