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Armstong's heads-up play sneaks Hornets pass Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- New Orleans rookie Hilton Armstrong
made the most of his chance to play.

The rookie from Connecticut made a free throw with 3 seconds
left, then got a key offensive rebound to help the New Orleans
Hornets beat the Detroit Pistons 100-99 Wednesday night.

With the score tied at 99, Armstrong made the first of two free
throws to put the Hornets ahead. He missed the second, but got to
the rebound and batted it to midcourt as time expired.

"Before I went to the line, I tied my shoe -- I didn't need to,
but it gave me a second to calm down and relax," said Armstrong,
who came into the game with zero career points in six minutes. "I
was pretty excited. On the second one, I didn't want to grab it and
get a foul, so I just tipped it."

Paul had 20 points and 13 assists for New Orleans, while
Armstrong finished with 17 points and nine rebounds in his first
start.

"That kid got a chance to play tonight and he made a
statement," Tayshaun Prince said. "That keeps happening to us --
young guys come in all fired up and play great against us."

Armstrong and Brandon Bass, another little-used reserve, stepped
into the starting lineup with David West and Tyson Chandler injured
and combined for 29 points and 16 rebounds.

"I told them before the game that they were getting an
opportunity, and it was up to them to take advantage of it," said
New Orleans coach Byron Scott. "I didn't expect 17 points from
Hilton, and I don't think he thought about scoring like that,
either. That's probably why he was able to do it."

Chauncey Billups led all scorers with 29 points, while Richard
Hamilton added 23. The Pistons are 3-5, their worst start since
they had the same record on their way to 50 losses in 2000-01.

"It's still early in the season, but it is late enough that
this is getting old," Billups said. "It is just mental
breakdowns. We're playing hard, but we've got three guys going one
way and two going another way."

The Pistons missed all six 3-pointers in the first half, but got
rolling from behind the line in the second half. Hamilton hit two
key 3-pointers in the third, and Detroit knocked down three in just
over a minute of the fourth quarter to take an 89-86 lead.

The teams traded the lead for the next several possessions, and
the game was tied at 97 with a minute left.

Bobby Jackson fouled Billups, and his pair from the line gave
the Pistons the lead, but Rasheed Wallace fouled Paul with 42
seconds to play.

Paul made both shots, tying the game at 99.

Wallace missed a 3-pointer, and Paul found Armstrong under the
basket, where he was fouled by Hamilton.

"Chris is their main guy, and we focused on him," Wallace
said. "We lost focus on everyone else."

The Hornets didn't play much defense in the first half, allowing
the Pistons to shoot 55.6 percent from the floor, but it didn't
really matter. New Orleans hit 50 percent of its own shots,
outrebounded Detroit 20-15 and only committed one turnover.

That, combined with 14 points from Armstrong, was enough to give
the Hornets a 60-49 lead at the intermission.

The Pistons rallied early in the third and pulled within 66-62
on Hamilton's 3-pointer midway through the quarter.

Detroit tied the game on another Hamilton 3-pointer late in the
period, but Wallace missed a go-ahead free throw, and Peja
Stojakovic answered with a 3-pointer and Paul added a
buzzer-beating jumper that gave the Hornets an 81-76 lead.

The Pistons, though, got back-to-back 3-pointers from Wallace
and Billups to tie the game at 86 with eight minutes to play. After
misses at both ends, Billups hit another from behind the arc to
give the Pistons their first lead since they scored the first
basket of the game.<
^Notes: The Hornets had as many offensive rebounds in the first half
-- 11 -- as the Pistons had defensive rebounds. ... The Hornets were
missing Chandler with a concussion and West with a strained
forearm. ... Antonio McDyess left the game early in the fourth with
a mild sprain of his left ankle, but could have returned if needed.
... Armstrong had only played in two of the Hornets' first eight
games, and hadn't even attempted a shot in his six minutes of
action. ... Paul picked up a first-half technical for arguing a
call.