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Pistons go up big, survive furious Suns rally

PHOENIX (AP) -- There's something about a zone defense that
brings out the worst in the Detroit Pistons, and it almost led to
an embarrassing collapse.

Richard Hamilton scored 22 points and Detroit held off the
Phoenix Suns 84-82 Monday night after nearly blowing a 20-point
lead in the fourth quarter.

The Suns clamped on a 1-2-2 zone defense and closed the game
with a 25-7 run. They had a chance to tie it at the finish, but
Stephon Marbury's driving 11-footer bounced off the rim with 1.4
seconds to play.

''The zone got us a lot more active, and the fact that we were
down,'' Marbury said. ''We have to play that way when the game's
starting.''

It was not the first time a zone has befuddled the Pistons this
season.

''We should be a zone attack team with the personnel we have,''
coach Rick Carlisle said, ''and we will be.''

Still, the Suns' rally did not taint the victory, as far as
Carlisle was concerned.

''Teams aren't going to lose by 30 in this league at home,'' he
said. ''They're going to come back at you.''

Corliss Williamson was the only other Detroit player in double
figures with 14 points. Ben Wallace had 14 rebounds.

Marbury had 15 points and 10 assists for Phoenix but was just
1-of-6 from the foul line. Shawn Marion added 14 points on 5-for-16
shooting from the field. Tom Gugliotta had 12 points and 15
rebounds.

Trailing by 20 with 8:33 to play, the Suns outscored the Pistons
19-5 to cut the lead to 82-76 on Bo Outlaw's three-point play with
3:17 remaining.

Wallace blocked Marion's shot and Williamson got loose for a
layup to make it 84-76, but Marbury scored on a rebound and Outlaw
made one of two free throws.

Penny Hardaway -- who had played just 3 minutes in the first
three quarters -- sank a 3-pointer to cut it to 84-82 with 31.3
seconds to play.

Clifford Robinson put up an airball as the shot clock expired to
give the Suns possession with 7.9 seconds to go. After a timeout,
Marbury drove to the basket and lofted a shot over Chauncy Billups,
but it wasn't close.

Billups, a good friend of Marbury's, remembered being beaten by
Marbury's 3-pointer last season.

''Steph's a clutch player,'' Billups said. ''He's done it his
whole career and he'll continue to do it. Me knowing Steph real
good personally, I knew that that's the thing he thrives on.''

Phoenix coach Frank Johnson designed the play for Marbury to go
to the hoop.

''I think I had a good look,'' Marbury said. ''The best part
about taking the last-second shot is that you want to take it.''

Seldom-used reserve Dan Langhi made two big jumpers in Phoenix's
late surge.

''We had to fight like heck to get back into it,'' Johnson said,
''and we did.''

Phoenix committed 18 turnovers to Detroit's eight, as the
Pistons took the lead at the end of the first quarter and never
relinquished it.

Detroit led 47-40 at the half thanks to a 12-2 run that started
with Williamson's 21-footer at the first-quarter buzzer and ended
with his stuff on a fastbreak that made it 32-23 with 8:32 left in
the half.

Hamilton's driving layup with 5:59 to play in the third quarter
gave the Pistons a 57-47 lead. The highlight of the quarter was
Wallace's spectacular block of Marion's fast-break layup attempt.

The Pistons, beaten by the Clippers 74-72 in Los Angeles on
Sunday night, led 66-55 entering the fourth. Chucky Atkins,
Robinson and Williamson scored on Detroit's first three possessions
of the quarter to put the Pistons up 72-55.

Atkins' steal and three-point play with 8:33 remaining made it
77-57.

Game notes
The Pistons are playing five road games in seven days, with
stops remaining in Utah, Denver and Dallas. ... Hamilton missed
three free throws in 23 attempts in his first three games, but was
3-for-6 in the first quarter. ... Suns starting guard Joe Johnson,
off to a rough start this season, played just 11 minutes and was
0-for-1 from the field.

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