The Detroit Pistons may not be so anxious for the All-Star break to arrive.
Detroit (38-13) looks to win its 10th straight and sweep the season series with the Indiana Pacers for the first time in 23 years when they met on Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the final game for both teams before the break.
The Pistons have won five straight over the Pacers (21-31) and four of the last five at home. A win in this contest would give the Pistons their first season series-sweep over Indiana since 1984-85 when they won all six meetings.
Wallace, who will replace injured Boston star Kevin Garnett on Sunday in New Orleans, scored 15 straight first-quarter points and finished with 21. Billups tallied 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a jumper with 22 seconds remaining that gave Detroit a 92-89 lead.
“You know me, man, you know me,” said Billups, who was just 5-of-16 from the field. “Late in games, if I have an opportunity I’m going to take advantage of that, whether I’m hot or not. I always feel like that fourth quarter is a different game.”
The game was Detroit’s second straight and third in four against teams with losing records. During their winning streak, the Pistons have faced five teams with records below .500, including the Pacers—who Detroit beat 110-104 at Conseco Fieldhouse on Jan. 29.
“It doesn’t matter to me who we play,” said Wallace, who was held to a combined 17 points the previous two games. “We have a job to do. We have a mission. They’re going to be in the way.”
The nine-game run is the Pistons’ second longest of the season. The Central Division-leaders won 11 straight from Dec. 14-Jan. 4, and they will enter the All-Star break with the second best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Celtics.
The struggling Pacers, meanwhile, lost for the eighth time in the last 10 games, 104-97 to the Celtics on Tuesday.
Indiana was unable to win its third straight as it played without injured starters Jermaine O’Neal (left knee bone bruise) and Jamaal Tinsley (sore left knee). O’Neal has missed the last 12 games while Tinsley has missed the last three.
Despite missing two of its top-five scorers, Indiana led 86-84 with nine minutes remaining, but Boston went on a 9-0 run and the Pacers never led again.
“The signs are there that we’re getting better,” said Shawne Williams, who scored 14 points, “but staying with good teams and beating them is two different things.”
Danny Granger had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for the Pacers, who had six players score in double figures.
Granger, Indiana’s leading scorer at 18.0 points per game, is averaging just 10.7 points in 11 career games against the Pistons, and 13.0 in three games this season against them.