Atlanta blows two large fourth-quarter leads

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Chauncey Billups hit the big shot,
but only because Mehmet Okur gave him the chance.

Billups hit a 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left to give
the Detroit Pistons a 102-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on
Wednesday night.

Billups would have not gotten that chance without the play of
the Turkish rookie. Okur scored all of his 16 points in the fourth
quarter, helping Detroit overcome a 15-point deficit in the final

"I think this may be the best game of my life,'' Okur said. "I
think was able to give my teammates some energy. Everyone thought
the game was over, and some of our fans left, but this is why we
are the best team in the East."

Pistons coach Rick Carlisle was thrilled with his rookie.

"Mehmet just plays the game," Carlisle said. "He's not
bashful or indecisive and he is getting a better sense of when to
be aggressive and when to kick the ball out."

After Shareef Abdur-Rahim's putback dunk tied the game at 99
with 29 seconds left in overtime, the shot clock was turned off
when Jason Terry committed a foul. Billups took Jon Barry's
inbounds pass and drained a jumper over Terry from the top of the

"I wasn't getting what I wanted when I went to the basket
tonight, and when I did get there, I was struggling to finish,"
said Billups. "I did what I was comfortable with -- I just put it
up and it went down."

The game-winner was the second in less than three weeks for
Billups. He hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer March 9 to give the
Pistons a 107-105 win over Golden State.

"Chauncey is a confident guy who is only thinking about a
win," Carlisle said. "He has done some great things at the end of

Terry, who played all but 13 seconds after playing 42 minutes
Tuesday in a loss to the Lakers, said he was hurting more
emotionally than physically.

"It's hard to work that hard all night and then lose because
someone hits a deep bomb on you at the buzzer," he said. "I feel
fine -- I was more tired last night -- but this one is very

The Hawks blew two large fourth-quarter leads and allowed
Detroit to tie the game in the last minute of regulation. They had
a chance to win in regulation, but Terry's jumper over Robinson was
well short.

Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 27 points while Billups
had 23. Ben Wallace added 23 rebounds, his seventh game of at least
20 in the last eight.

Atlanta was missing leading scorer Glenn Robinson, who sat out
with an inflamed left Achilles tendon. Abdur-Rahim led the Hawks
with 23 points while Dion Glover added 20 and Terry had 18.

"Saying we were tired is too convenient -- we played a great
game and they kicked our butt with a bunch of 3-pointers at the
end," said Atlanta coach Terry Stotts. "We put forth a tremendous
effort and did a lot of great things. We just didn't win the

The Hawks shot 55 percent from the floor in the first half and
held the Pistons to just 30.8 percent, building a 50-38 lead.

Detroit picked up the offense in the third quarter, but still
couldn't stop the Hawks, who led by as many as 16 points. The
Pistons finally put together an 8-0 run late in the period to trail
74-63 heading into the final quarter.

Atlanta scored the first four points of the fourth, expanding
its lead to 15 points, but Detroit went on a 19-4 run that included
11 points from Okur, including two free throws to tie the game at
84 with 4:06 to play.

The Pistons went scoreless for the next 2:43, allowing Atlanta
to build a 91-84 lead, but Okur had five more points in a 7-0 run.
Hamilton's jumper re-tied the game with 30 seconds left.

"He hit a couple nice shots -- I have no idea how he made one of
those layups -- and then he got the benefit of the doubt on a couple
calls,'' said Theo Ratliff of Okur's big fourth quarter. "That got
him going, and they had the confidence in him to keep giving him
the ball."

Game notes
Pistons guard Chucky Atkins missed the game with a bruised
left knee. ... Atlanta outrebounded Detroit 26-17 in the first half
despite 11 rebounds from Wallace. ... The Pistons won the season
series 3-1 and have now beaten Atlanta nine straight times at home.
... Detroit clinched a playoff spot with the win.


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