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Pistons throttle Bobcats, improve to NBA-best 18-3

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff
thought the Bobcats would have to play a near perfect game to beat
Detroit. When they came out flat, it was more than Bickerstaff
could stand to watch.

Chauncey Billups had 21 points and 12 assists and the Pistons
routed the Bobcats 103-78 on Saturday night to improve to an
NBA-best 18-3 -- the best 21-game mark in franchise history.

Richard Hamilton added 15 points and Ben Wallace had 13 points
and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, 11-2 on the road.

"The effort early in that game was probably the worst I've ever
seen from a Bobcat team. It appeared we were in awe," said
Bickerstaff, who was ejected for picking up two technical fouls
late in the first half. "But they're good. I really don't see any
weaknesses."

Primoz Brezec had 17 points and Emeka Okafor added 14 points and
13 rebounds for the Bobcats, who shot 35 percent and scored a
franchise-low 26 points in the first half.

Charlotte won two of three games against Detroit last season and
was coming off a two-day break, while the Pistons played Friday
night at home. But the Bobcats were never in it, falling behind
14-4, and 21-12 after the first quarter. Charlotte missed 15 of its
first 21 shots.

Defensively, the Bobcats changed up assignments and even played
some zone, but nothing worked as the Pistons methodically built
their lead. Billups' 3-point play with 10.8 seconds in the first
half made it 49-26 as Detroit hardly eased up on the second-year
Bobcats.

"Just because they have a losing record, for us to come in here
and think we're going to steamroll these cats, that's when we
lose," Wallace said.

Bickerstaff didn't have to watch the second half from the bench.
He was ejected after referee Eli Roe gave him back-to-back
technical fouls with 1:59 left in the first half, seconds after Roe
called a 3-second violation against Okafor. Bickerstaff's son,
26-year-old John-Blair Bickerstaff, then ran the team as the
Bobcats lost for the ninth time in 10 games.

"It was probably a combination of being (upset) with our guys
because they weren't competing -- and obviously I better leave the
other part alone," Bernie Bickerstaff said. "I've paid enough
tonight."

Detroit, which led by as many as 27 points in the fourth
quarter, shot 51 percent. And Billups again led the way in what
he's calling his best season.

"I'm playing the best I've ever played right now," Billups
said. "I have that freedom to run the show. I know the offense
inside and out, I know where people are going to be. Things are
really good right now."

Charlotte starting small forward Gerald Wallace returned after
missing two games with a sprained right index finger, but got into
early foul trouble and was ineffective. He was scoreless in 13
minutes.

Bobcats point guard Brevin Knight sat out the fourth quarter
because of a bruised right forearm.

"I would just like to apologize. The whole team ought to
apologize to the fans," Brezec said. "We didn't put up a fight
tonight. It was embarrassing."

Game notes
Bobcats forward Melvin Ely missed the game with flu-like
symptoms. "The guys were teasing him, saying he has the (Rasheed)
Wallace flu," Bickerstaff said. ... Pistons coach Flip Saunders
acknowledged the uninspired play of late from reserve Darko
Milicic. "I've noticed the same thing you've noticed," Saunders
said. ... The crowd of 19,026 was the Bobcats' second sellout, and
the first since opening night. ... Even in Charlotte the campaign
against embattled Detroit Lions president Matt Millen is alive and
well. One fan in the upper deck held a "Fire Millen" sign.

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