After helping show why his team is easily the best in its division, Chauncey Billups looks to demonstrate to his hometown fans why the Detroit Pistons are the best in the league in a matchup with the Denver Nuggets.
A former star at the University of Colorado who was born and raised in Denver, Billups is considered an MVP candidate for guiding Detroit to the NBA’s top record all season. He’s averaging career highs of 18.7 points and 8.8 assists.
The All-Star point guard had 15 points and 12 assists on Monday as the Pistons completed a home-and-home sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with an 84-72 victory.
Billups received one of five technical fouls for the Pistons, who complained all night about the officiating. Rasheed Wallace received a technical when he got up laughing after being pushed to the floor by Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a night after elbowing the Cavs’ center in the head.
“We’re just not going to let you do what you want to do and let us tuck our tail in and walk away. We’re going to let you know how we feel,” said Billups, averaging 11.3 assists and just 1.8 turnovers over the last eight games.
“If they think that’s complaining, whatever. But, teams just can’t beat us playing basketball and that’s how we feel. When things like this happen, teams get a better chance of beating us and we know that.”
Monday’s win along with Sunday’s 90-78 home victory over the second-place Cavaliers pushed Detroit’s Central Division lead to 15 1/2 games, by far the largest in the league.
“The satisfying thing about this game is it puts us 16 games up over our next closest team in the division with 26 to go,” coach Flip Saunders said. “That’s pretty good.”
The Pistons have won six straight to maintain an 11-game lead in the Eastern Conference over Miami and a two-game edge over Dallas for the league’s best record. Both the Heat and Mavericks also have won six in a row.
Denver’s division lead is not nearly as safe, up 2 1/2 games on second-place Utah in the Northwest.
The Nuggets had won their first two games following the All-Star break before losing at home to Milwaukee on Monday, 110-89. Denver never led after the first quarter and trailed 69-45 at halftime.
“When you give up as many points as we did in the first half, it’s hard to win anything,” Nuggets guard Earl Boykins said.
Carmelo Anthony was held to four points in the second half and finished with 19, the first time in 11 games he failed to reach 20.
Anthony was limited to 12 points in the first meeting this season with the Pistons, a 114-89 loss on Nov. 23.
Detroit has won nine of the last 10 meetings, with the only loss coming last season at Denver as the Pistons played without All-Star center Ben Wallace.