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Pistons avoid season's first losing skid, beat Wolves

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves didn't have much success with their old roster against the Pistons last week.

Playing Detroit with three new players and the Pistons coming off a rare loss wasn't any better.

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points and Tayshaun Prince added 20 as the Pistons (38-6) avoided their first losing streak of the
season by beating the Timberwolves 90-74 on Wednesday night.

"The thing I love about these guys is that, when we lose, they have taken it hard and decided to bounce back," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "This was a great win after a poor performance last night."

The Pistons, who had an 11-game winning streak snapped Tuesday in New Jersey, beat Saunders' old team for the second time in eight days. They won the games by an average of 20 points, even with Minnesota making a major trade with Boston between the two games.

"They are the measuring stick of the league," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "They have been together for what? Five years? We've been together for three games."

Ben Wallace was scoreless but had 17 rebounds for Detroit.

"He was everywhere," Chauncey Billups said. "He had so much energy tonight. We came into this game focused, because we knew we didn't play our best yesterday. When we lose a game that was there to win, we don't like that."

Wallace's scoreless outing didn't lessen his performance in Casey's eyes.

"If he's not an All-Star, I don't know who is," he said. "He should be a great example for young men who think scoring is the most important thing."

Trenton Hassell and Kevin Garnett led Minnesota with 14 points apiece, and Garnett added 12 rebounds.

"It is tough," said Ricky Davis, one of the new Timberwolves. "We still don't know sets. We're just trying to play ball, but against that team, you have to execute."

Minnesota led 27-23 early in the second quarter, but Detroit went on a 20-2 run to take control of the game. Six Pistons players scored during the surge, with Carlos Delfino's five points leading the way.

At about the same time, a large contingent of Pittsburgh Steelers entered the arena and sat in courtside seats, led by Detroit native Jerome Bettis.

"It was a great feel tonight -- it was almost like the NBA Finals," Hamilton said. "Everybody that's anybody was here tonight."

Saunders felt that the Pistons were inspired by the presence of the Steelers, as well as several members of the Seattle Seahawks and other football notables like Donovan McNabb, Torry Holt, Reggie Bush and Dre' Bly.

"When you have other athletes in the arena, you want to go out there and perform," he said. "I'm sure that got them a little juiced up."

Detroit led 47-37 at the half, led by 13 points from Prince, and then scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 17-point advantage.

Prince's jumper at the buzzer put the Pistons up 70-52 heading into the final period, and they cruised to the easy victory.

Moments after three offensive rebounds by Wallace on the same possession led to a 3-pointer for Hamilton, Mark Blount
clotheslined Maurice Evans on a drive to the basket and was called for a flagrant foul.

"I was having one of those out-of-body experiences," Wallace joked.

Game notes
The Pistons received two honors before the game. Saunders was chosen as Eastern Conference coach of the month for the third
month in a row, while Billups won Eastern Conference player of the month. ... The Pistons lost a fast-break basket in the last minute of the third quarter when Hamilton collided with official Mike Callahan. "I was expecting him to be on the edge of the court, not right in the middle," Hamilton said.