Rip, Prince lead Pistons to fifth straight victory

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons didn't have much
energy, playing their fourth game in five days.

Their experience made up for it.

Richard Hamilton scored 23 points and Tayshaun Prince added 21
to lead Detroit over the Portland Trail Blazers 93-89 on Tuesday

The Pistons improved to an NBA-best 20-3 with their fifth
straight win -- and the same five starters they have had for nearly
two years.

"I thought we had the ability to get off to a good start, but I
didn't think it would get this gaudy," Detroit coach Flip Saunders
said. "This league is about winning close games, and we've won
some close games.

"That's a credit to those guys because in close-game
situations, they make plays."

Zach Randolph scored a career-high 37 points for the Trail
Blazers, who made a strong showing but fell to 7-17, the worst
record in the Western Conference.

Randolph was fuming about the officials, who called fouls on
teammate Jarrett Jack on consecutive possessions as Chauncey
Billups was attempting 3-point shots. After Billups was 5-of-6 at
the line, Detroit trailed by just two with 4:58 left.

"He came down and flopped -- didn't even get touched," Randolph
said. "We had the game, and the guy gets six free throws.

"That's ridiculous. The refs took the game away from us."

Before Billups' free throws, Joel Przybilla scored on
consecutive dunks to give Portland a five-point lead midway through
the fourth quarter. Hamilton later scored eight straight to give
the Pistons a 90-86 lead.

Randolph's basket pulled the Trail Blazers to 90-89 with 1:20
left, and after Ben Wallace made one of two free throws, Randolph
missed a fadeaway that would've tied the game.

Detroit had a chance to make it a two-possession game, but
Prince turned the ball over with 21 seconds left. Prince made up
for it by stepping in front of Steve Blake's pass, then making two
free throws to seal the victory with 10 seconds remaining.

"Our experience, being in so many dog fights, it definitely
pays off at the end of games," said Billups, who had 19 points, 10
assists and one turnover.

Detroit's Ben Wallace had 13 points and 14 rebounds and Rasheed
Wallace had 11 points and four blocks.

Ben Wallace played 56 minutes Monday night in the
double-overtime win at Memphis, and 41 on Tuesday.

"I've got to get that guy a massage for Christmas," Billups

Juan Dixon scored 14 for the Trail Blazers, while Ruben
Patterson (14) and Przybilla (10) provided much more scoring off
the bench than Detroit's reserves, who combined for just six

Randolph made a career-high 14 field goals on 26 shots from the
field, and grabbed 11 rebounds.

"He causes problems," Saunders said. "He has improved his
perimeter game so much."

Randolph was limited to 46 games last season by an injured right
knee, which needed surgery in March.

"I'm just trying to get back to playing the way I used to
play," he said. "The knee felt good."

Randolph's spectacular game started early.

He had 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, leading Portland to a 21-13
lead. He had 15 points in the first quarter and the Trail Blazers
led 25-23.

"That's why he got all those millions -- he just has to be
consistent," Patterson said. "That's what big-time players do."

In November of 2004, Randolph signed an $84 million, six-year
contract extension with the Trail Blazers.

Game notes
Detroit has its best 23-game record in franchise history.
... Randolph, whose previous career high was 34 points, left
Michigan State after one year. ... Portland coach Nate McMillan
said when PG Sebastian Telfair (thumb sprain) is healthy enough to
return, he may bring him off the bench. ... Rasheed Wallace was
0-for-5 before making a 3-pointer near the end of the first half.