Billups comes through late as Pistons beat Mavericks

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons enjoyed beating Dallas so much that they want a chance to do it again.

"I told Avery [Johnson] after the game that I'd like to see him seven more times, starting in about three months," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.

If the Pistons (56-14) and Mavericks (54-17) do meet in June's NBA Finals, Detroit's 97-90 victory Tuesday might play a crucial role in determining who gets the home-court advantage.

"Obviously, this is a very disappointing loss," Johnson said. "We definitely gave ourselves a chance to win, we just didn't execute down the stretch."

With the win, the Pistons split the season series with the Mavericks and moved 2½ games ahead of them for the league's best record.

"This is a very big win, but we won't know just how big for a while," said Chauncey Billups, who scored eight of his 31 points in the final three minutes. "It might be huge, or it might just end up as another victory."

The win avenged Detroit's worst loss of the season, a 119-82 rout in Dallas on Nov. 19. The Pistons trailed 40-16 after one quarter, and Billups wanted to make sure there wasn't a repeat.

"Dallas and Phoenix are the two teams that really make an effort to jump on you early, so I knew I had to be aggressive tonight," he said. "I think the team plays better when I'm aggressive."

Rasheed Wallace added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit, while Richard Hamilton scored 14 points.

"It's a lot of fun to play games like this," Wallace said. "Especially when you are going up against one of the NBA's best teams, like we were tonight."

Dirk Nowitzki and former Piston Jerry Stackhouse each had 25 for Dallas.

"That's as good as it gets in this league," Stackhouse said. "But we're going to look at this film, and we're all going to be [mad], because we had the game. We didn't play smart, and that cost us the game."

Stackhouse, who still holds the Pistons' single-game scoring record, had nine points in the third quarter, but the Mavericks needed Keith Van Horn's late 3-pointer to stay within 72-69 at quarter's end.

"Stack did his thing tonight," said Wallace, a close friend of Stackhouse's since their days at North Carolina. "I just wish he would have done it against someone else."

The teams traded the advantage for most of the fourth, and the game was tied with 3 minutes to play.

That's when Billups hit a free throw after a defensive three-second violation, then added a 3-pointer to give the Pistons a 92-88 lead.

Nowitzki hit a jumper at the other end, but Tayshaun Prince blocked his attempt at a tying shot moments later and Billups iced the game with a 3-pointer.

"We battled, we fought -- this was a playoff atmosphere," Johnson said. "We wish we would have been able to match their intensity down the stretch, but we didn't."

The Pistons trailed for most of the first half, but Billups scored seven points in the final 2 minutes to put them ahead 52-50 at the break.

Game notes
Mavericks forward Rawle Marshall, a Detroit native who played at nearby Oakland University, played as a pro for the first time at home. He started, but was scoreless in 11 minutes. ... The Pistons made their first eight 3-pointers before Tony Delk missed at the third-quarter buzzer. The Indiana Pacers have the NBA record with a 7-for-7 game in 1995. ... Stackhouse scored 57 points for the Pistons in Chicago on April 3, 2001.