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Detroit rallies to salvage tough December

12/31/2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- After struggling in December, the
Detroit Pistons think they might have found their rhythm just in
time for 2004.

Chauncey Billups scored 22 points and Ben Wallace added 10
points and 15 rebounds, leading Detroit to a 78-71 victory over the
Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

"We're finally starting to take some strides and develop a
personality," Billups said. "We're finding out how to play
Pistons basketball again."

Detroit started December with seven losses in 11 games before
rallying to win the final three.

"We're playing better basketball and we are building off each
win," Tayshaun Prince said. "We beat a good team tonight -- I
don't care what their road record might be."

Detroit also got 13 points from Richard Hamilton. Corliss
Williamson added 12 points and a season-high 10 rebounds off the
bench.

"I'm thrilled with this game," Pistons coach Larry Brown said.
"We couldn't make a shot for most of the game, but we hung in
there and played outstanding defense. We just kept plugging away."

The Pistons snapped a six-game losing streak to Portland and
beat the Blazers at home for the first time since Jan. 29, 1997.

"I don't know if we are over the hump or not, but we've made a
start at it," Wallace said. "You'll have to ask us later if we
are over the hump."

Portland, which set a season low for points, dropped to 1-11 on
the road despite 17 points from Rasheed Wallace and 16 points and
14 rebounds from Zach Randolph.

"Ben and I had a good matchup -- we just went in and battled all
night," Randolph said. "Their team defense is what ultimately
decided this game -- we broke down at the end. But we're getting
better, we just have to keep working."

The teams traded the lead for the first six minutes of the
fourth quarter, but 3-pointers by Billups and Prince keyed an 8-0
run that put Detroit up 71-64 with 4:50 to play. The Pistons led by
as many as 11 down the stretch.

"We were in the game. We had a chance to win for 44 or 45
minutes," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Then they made a
couple shots, including that big 3-pointer with the shot clock
running down by Prince. We just never got anything going against
their offense."

Detroit led 37-36 at halftime, and neither team scored on its
first four possessions of the third quarter. Dale Davis ended the
slump with two free throws 2:14 into the period, but the Blazers
didn't get a field goal until Wallace's skyhook with 5:57 left in
the quarter.

The Pistons, though, couldn't take advantage, and led only 57-55
at the end of the period.

Game notes
It was the first New Year's Eve home game in Pistons
history. ... Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who coached Randolph in
college, attended the game. ... The teams scored just 26 points in
the second quarter, with the Pistons outscoring Portland 14-12. ...
Rasheed Wallace got a technical for arguing a call, and Detroit's
Elden Campbell got one for a tangle with Randolph.