AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The San Antonio Spurs had every excuse to put forth a lackluster performance Wednesday night -- and didn't need to use any of them.
"We've been inconsistent all year, so it was nice to see us put together 48 good minutes," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That's one of our best games all year, and it is the finest game Francisco has played for this team."
The Spurs were playing the finale of an eight-game road trip and their last game before the All-Star break but looked like the fresher team.
"It wasn't tough at all to get up for this one," Duncan said after San Antonio's first win in Detroit since Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals. "We aren't playing well, and we really needed to put together a good game before the break."
The Pistons were playing their fifth straight game at home but struggled at both ends of the floor in their first loss of the month.
"It's always tough to play the last game before the break," Chauncey Billups said. "They came in hungry, because they've been struggling a bit. By the time we started fighting, it was an uphill battle."
"This is going to make it a lot easier to enjoy the break," Ginobili said. "I would have rather gone 6-2 on the trip, but with the way we've been playing, and that we started 2-4, going 4-4 is pretty good."
Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 20 points while Billups scored 19, including 16 in the second half.
San Antonio led 51-34 after dominating the first half. The Spurs outshot Detroit 56.1 percent to 31.6 percent and outrebounded the Pistons. Elson had eight points and 10 rebounds in the half, while Ginobili scored 12 off the bench.
"We had mental mistakes all over the place," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "When you do that, all of a sudden they get easy buckets and then every one of your shots becomes a pressure shot."
Lindsey Hunter kept the game from getting out of hand, going 3-for-3 in the second quarter while his teammates were going 1-for-13. He outscored the rest of the Pistons 8-7 in the period.
"The shots we missed, we usually make," Hamilton said. "We allowed them to run their offense and dictate the way the game was going to be played."
Billups, who went 0-for-4 in the first half, scored 10 points in the third, but it didn't help much. Elson had eight more rebounds in the period, and San Antonio took a 70-54 lead into the fourth.
"Francisco was huge," Duncan said. "He was active on the boards, which we've been lacking, but he also ran the floor and flattened out their defense. He only got a couple layups out of it, but he made them hustle back all night."
Detroit got as close as 11 early in the period, but the Spurs kept them at bay.
The Pistons finally got the margin to single digits, 86-77, on Rasheed Wallace's 3-pointer with 2:23 left, but Billups had a 3 go in-and-out with a minute to play and San Antonio clinched the game from the line.
Tayshaun Prince and Billups went a combined 0-for-9 in the first half. Prince finished 1-for-8. ... Melvin Ely, acquired from Charlotte on Tuesday, wasn't with the Spurs. He is expected to join the team after the All-Star break. ... Elson surpassed his previous season high of nine rebounds during the first half and surpassed his career best of 15 in the third quarter.