Balanced attack leads Pistons past Pacers for 10th straight win

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons were worried about a letdown Wednesday night.

It wasn't a concern for long.

The Pistons took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and headed into the All-Star break with their 10th straight win, 96-80 over the Indiana Pacers.

"This could have been a dangerous game, because you have guys looking forward to the break," said Chauncey Billups, one of three Pistons heading to New Orleans for the game. "This is a good win because we took care of business and put those guys away.

"You hate to leave a streak like this, but we'll have to come back and rev it back up."

Detroit had an 11-game streak earlier in the season, making them the 38th team in NBA history with two double-digit winning streaks in the same season. The Mavericks and Suns did it last season, while the Pistons did it in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

"We've got a really good rhythm going right now," Richard Hamilton said. "The young guys are playing great. They're really starting to understand how to play."

Billups, Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince led a balanced attack with 14 points each, while Jason Maxiell added 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Pistons haven't lost since Jan. 21 and are 31-8 since an 8-5 start.

The victory also gave the Pistons a season sweep of the Pacers, their first since 1984-85 -- before key reserves Amir Johnson, Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo were born.

"They are just a much better basketball team than we are," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said.

None of Detroit's starters played 30 minutes, and Hamilton scored his 14 points in just 19, thanks to foul trouble and the lopsided score.

"I haven't felt this good in quite a few years," said Billups, who hasn't had to play 35 minutes since Jan. 19. "I feel so much fresher this year because we've got a good enough bench that we haven't had to play extended minutes."

Johnson, who came into the season with 11 games of experience over two seasons, had eight points, nine rebounds and seven blocks in a team-high 31 minutes.

"I don't think that, a week and a half ago, anyone would have expected Amir to lead us in minutes," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "But, you know, he did a nice job."

Ike Diogu led the Pacers with 14 points, while Mike Dunleavy had 11 -- the only starter in double figures. Indiana has lost nine of 11, and has its worst record at the All-Star break since 1991-92.

"There's never a bad time to get away for a while, but this is a good time," O'Brien said. "We need a break."

Unlike their previous two home games, when the Pistons led by at least 24 points in the first half, they only had a 55-42 advantage over the Pacers at the break.

Detroit turned the ball over seven times in the third quarter, but it didn't help Indiana. The Pistons went up 73-50 late in the period on back-to-back 3-pointers by Billups and Hamilton, and the Pacers never put together a serious rally.

"I'm not sure what happened in the third quarter," Dunleavy said. "We were running around, but we weren't accomplishing anything."

Game notes
Hamilton turns 30 on Thursday, but isn't ready to admit it. "Nobody's going to ask me for ID, so I'm cool," he said. "I'm just going to keep telling people I'm 29." ... Travis Diener (sore foot) sat out for Indiana, while Jermaine O'Neal missed his 13th straight game with a knee injury and Jamaal Tinsley (knee) missed his fourth straight. ... The Pistons haven't trailed after the first quarter in any of their last three home games. ... Indiana's starters shot a combined 27 percent (10-for-37). ... The Pistons committed 12 turnovers in the second half after having just one in each of the first two quarters. ... Stuckey scored 12 points to reach double figures for the sixth time in seven games.

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