Phoenix (20-8) at Detroit (18-10)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Auburn Hills, MI
Temp: 54° F
  • Game info: 4:00 pm EST Sun Dec 31, 2006
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The Detroit Pistons play their first game without injured star Chauncey Billups on Sunday when they host the Phoenix Suns in a matchup of first-place teams.

Billups strained his right calf while landing awkwardly after hitting a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left of the Pistons’ 93-92 loss to Indiana on Friday. Billups, who is averaging 18.0 points and a team-high 8.1 assists per game, is expected to miss at least 10 days.

“I felt a pop in there,” Billups said. “When I went up, it was like I couldn’t move. I knew it wasn’t a cramp—I’ve had cramps before. We just have to monitor it and see.”

Billups averaged 31.0 points and 8.0 assists in leading Detroit to a season sweep of Phoenix in 2005-06.

“Right now, it is diagnosed as a strain,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “We’ll have to wait and see how it reacts.”

Detroit (18-10) will be trying to avoid losing three in a row Sunday for the first time since March 22-25, 2005. The Pistons haven’t dropped two straight at home since December 2004.

Billups had 23 points and a career-high 12 rebounds Friday before getting hurt. Richard Hamilton, who had a career-high 51 points in Wednesday’s triple-overtime loss at New York, added 22 points.

“Our execution our last two games in late game situations, fouling guys at the end, those are mental mistakes, and we are making too many mental mistakes,” Saunders said.

Detroit will be hosting a Phoenix team that averages a league-high 111.3 points per game and is coming off a 108-86 win over the Knicks on Friday. The Suns (20-8) had six players score in double figures one night after suffering a two-point loss at Dallas that ended their eight-game road win streak.

“I think after last night’s game we definitely could have had an emotional letdown,” said Steve Nash, who is averaging a career-high 20.0 points and leads the NBA with 11.3 assists per game. “We came out with a lot of energy defensively. We made some shots and gave ourselves a lead to manage.”

Nash scored 20 points to increase his career total to 10,015 and added nine assists. Raja Bell (20), Leandro Barbosa (16), Shawn Marion (14), Kurt Thomas (12) and Amare Stoudemire (11) also scored in double figures for Phoenix.

“We did what we’re supposed to do,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re playing well. We’re just moving right along. It’s too bad about last night, but these guys snapped back and we’ve got a road trip coming up and we’ll see what we can do.”

The Suns, who have followed their franchise-record 15-game winning streak by alternating wins and losses in their last four games, have lost two in a row and seven of the last nine meetings with the Pistons. Phoenix has dropped its last three visits to The Palace of Auburn Hills.

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Sunday, Dec 31