AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Chauncey Billups doesn’t want to talk about his credentials for the All-Star game, much less the NBA’s MVP.
But because of nights like Tuesday, he has plenty of people willing to do it for him.
“I’d say that 37 points, nine assists and one turnover make a pretty good statement for the All-Star game,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “He felt good tonight, and when he feels that good, we’re just going to let him go.”
Billups actually scored 40 points against the Magic in 2003, but that was in a playoff game.
“He carried us tonight,” Ben Wallace said. “He’s been like that all season.”
Billups was 9-of-15 from the floor, including four 3-pointers, and 15-of-17 from the line as Detroit won in its first game since having a nine-game winning streak snapped Saturday at Cleveland.
“I’m just mad I missed those two free throws,” Billups said with a grin. “We had a letdown against Cleveland, and we needed to turn that around. We couldn’t let it continue.”
The 2004 Finals MVP doesn’t mind the talk that his play had garnered this year—he just isn’t going to join in.
“I welcome it—I welcome it,” he said. “But I’ll let everyone else talk.”
Detroit (25-4) overcame 22 points and 14 rebounds from Dwight Howard.
“I think we could have had a win tonight,” Howard said. “Detroit stepped it up on the defensive end and won the game, but the next time, we’ll know what to do.”
“That is a very good team,” Hill said. “They’ve only lost one game at home. They can be beat—anyone can be beat—but we played them at the right time. If we had seen them two weeks ago, it might have gotten ugly.”
The Pistons shot 57 percent in the first half and got 18 points from Billups, but only led 57-55 because of a rare poor defensive performance. The Magic shot 59 percent, including an 11-for-17 (65 percent) performance in the second quarter.
“I was disappointed in the defense, and I told them that at halftime,” Saunders said. “These are the dog days, when it seems like the season is never going to end, and it takes a while to get your energy levels up. And when you have a gaudy record like we do, every team is going to come out hard against you.”
The Pistons took control with an 11-2 run that put them ahead 92-83 with 7:18 to play. Billups had seven points in the surge, including a 3-pointer and a spectacular underhanded layup in traffic.
“In my career, going back to Connecticut, I’ve never run into a point guard like Chauncey,” Hamilton said. “He wants the ball in his hands in every tough situation, and he hits big shots and still keeps his teammates involved.”
Saunders was named the Eastern Conference coach of the month for December on Tuesday, making him the first Pistons coach to win the award in back-to-back months. … Hamilton picked up just his fourth blocked shot of the season in the third quarter, knocking away Steve Francis’ jumper. He has never blocked two shots in the same game. … Howard had his fifth 20-point game of the season and his 21st double-double. … Nelson reached 1,000 career points in the fourth quarter. … Billups’ previous career high was 36 at Dallas in 2002.