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Pistons beat Clippers, end first losing streak

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Tayshaun Prince might be the only
Detroit starter left out when the All-Star reserves are announced
Thursday.

His teammates find that hard to believe.

Prince scored 11 of his 22 points in the first five minutes of
the fourth quarter, helping the Pistons pull away to a 97-87
victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

"He almost carried us to a victory last night, and he did it
tonight," Chauncey Billups said. "He's just playing great
basketball right now."

Prince scored 29 points in Tuesday's 99-98 loss in Atlanta, but
his hot streak came after the coaches had already voted.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens," Pistons coach Flip
Saunders said. "There's no question that he's deserving and that
he's going to be an All-Star someday."

The win ended Detroit's first two-game losing streak of the
season and was its seventh straight win over the Clippers.

"The last five or six games, our energy level has been down,"
Prince said. "That's why I knew the fourth quarter was the time to
get aggressive, try to hit some shots and get to the line."

Los Angeles, which was missing Sam Cassell (back spasms), had
its four-game winning streak snapped.

"I knew his back was bothering him a little bit, but tonight he
didn't feel like it was good enough to go," Clippers coach Mike
Dunleavy said. "It was literally right before the game."

Rasheed Wallace had 19 points for Detroit while Billups added 18
points.

Elton Brand led the Clippers with 30 points, and Cuttino Mobley
added 27. Shaun Livingston, starting in place of Cassell, had a
career-best 12 assists.

"We're not quite there yet," Dunleavy said. "We're definitely
a playoff team, but we're not with the elite teams of the league."

Brand averaged 30.1 points on the five-game road trip.

"Elton has drastically improved his perimeter shooting,"
Saunders said. "He was quick-shooting us tonight -- getting rid of
the ball before we could get to him."

Los Angeles scored the first four points of the fourth to pull
within one, but Prince scored the next eight points, including a
3-pointer and a three-point play, to make it 79-70 with 7:28 left.

After two free throws by Mobley, Prince made his second
three-point play in 26 seconds, giving Detroit a 10-point lead.

The Clippers tried to get back into the game by intentionally
fouling Ben Wallace, and he missed four of six free throws,
including an airball.

That let Los Angeles pull within 87-81 with 2:50 to go, and
Wallace took himself out of the game at the next timeout.

"That was Ben's call," Saunders said.

Rasheed Wallace hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and the
Clippers never threatened again, but at least one Piston was
disappointed at the way it happened.

"I told Ben that I wished he had stayed in there," Billups
said. "He's going to try to make those shots. We've got his back
either way."

Brand's 17 first-quarter points gave the Clippers a 25-18 after
one period, but Antonio McDyess had nine points in the second to
help the Pistons to a 48-40 halftime lead.

Detroit led by as many as 11 early in the third, but the
Clippers used a 12-0 run to take a one-point lead midway through
the period. Mobley had six points in the surge.

Billups, though, scored seven straight points late in the
period, helping Detroit build a 71-66 advantage heading into the
final 12 minutes.

Game notes
Lindsey Hunter, who made his season debut on Tuesday after
missing 46 games with an ankle injury, did not play on Wednesday.
... Brand has scored 17 points in a quarter against the Pistons
twice this season, also doing it in the third quarter on Dec. 11.
The only player to have a higher-scoring quarter against Detroit is
Ricky Davis, who had 18 in the second for Boston on Nov. 15.