PHILADELPHIA (AP)—With a balanced, dominant and deep roster, Detroit swept the season series against Philadelphia.
With the way both teams are playing down the stretch, the Pistons can start thinking about another possible sweep over the Sixers, only this time in the postseason.
Detroit has a comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference standings, while the Sixers’ three-game losing streak has them in eighth place. The Pistons beat the Sixers in five games in last season’s first-round, best-of-seven matchup.
“Everybody’s playing together, everybody’s playing in sync,” Ben Wallace said. “That’s all we can ask for right now.”
No one on Philadelphia can say that.
After winning five of six following the All-Star break, Philadelphia has since played its worst basketball of the season. The Sixers have lost 10 of their last 12 games and have only a 1 1/2 -game lead over Chicago for the final playoff spot.
“This hurts, man. Ten out of 12,” Webber said. “How many times have I said the word ‘hurt’ in an interview after a game?”
The Sixers (32-38) dropped six games below .500 for the first time since Dec. 8, 2004.
“I can’t tell you anything that is going to make you feel like we are going to turn it around,” Iverson said. “All I can do is believe in that and realize that we are still alive. We still have a chance to make it into another season, that’s the most positive part of all of it.”
While the Pistons delivered a potent preview of what Philadelphia could face in the postseason, Webber believed the Sixers sent a message, also: “We’re sending a message that we don’t really give a damn sometimes.”
Webber and Iverson kept the Sixers close, though it seemed at times Detroit was merely teasing them and simply waiting for its time to take control. That came in the fourth, when the Pistons got 3-pointers from Lindsey Hunter and Rasheed Wallace as part of a 10-0 run to open the quarter.
“Teams are waiting for us to get things turned up,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “When that happens, that’s when we go on our little runs.”
Hunter scored only two points through the first three quarters, then had seven in the fourth. The Sixers were sloppy, also, with two turnovers that Detroit converted into points during its run. Later in the quarter, Iverson tried to pass to Webber under the basket, only to have the forward stop short and the ball fly out of bounds.
Korver sank a 3 and Samuel Dalembert scored to pull the Sixers within nine, but Billups wowed the crowd when he spun around Korver in the paint and hit a jumper to push the lead back to double digits.
Billups kicked out to Prince on the next possession for a 3-pointer that made it 99-86 and the crowd began to file out.
“We can always get what we think is necessary,” Prince said.
The Sixers shot a respectable 51 percent, but committed 19 turnovers.
The Pistons got 3-pointers from Billups and Hamilton late in the third to wipe out a brief Sixers spurt that pulled them within two. Webber then smartly tossed up a 3-point shot while Prince lunged at him, and was fouled. He sank all three free throws, then followed with a 16-footer the next time down to make it 71-68.
Detroit hasn’t dominated the East the last three seasons without reason. Again, they cut the Sixers’ run off before they really got rolling, with Hamilton and Prince scoring quick baskets that made it 75-68 at the end of the quarter.
“If we fall apart, it’s all gonna end,” Korver said. “That’s the one thing we can’t do right now is fall apart.
Saunders was whistled for a technical in the first quarter. … Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks is disappointed his team hasn’t shown a real understanding of how crucial these games are. “I’m looking for someone, and there are a couple of people, to realize the urgency of where we are,” he said. “The last couple of games is not where I’d like it to be in terms of the urgency.” … R&B singer Ray J, Brandy’s little brother, performed a postgame concert. … Webber has scored 20-plus points in a season-high five straight games.