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


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


"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


"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.