Pacers 93, Pistons 92

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—On a night filled with dramatic runs, the Indiana Pacers picked up a win with a single free throw.

Darrell Armstrong’s foul shot with 0.9 seconds left gave the Pacers a 93-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

To make things worse for Detroit, Chauncey Billups strained his right calf while hitting a key 3-pointer in the last minute. He is expected to miss 10 days to two weeks.

“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.”

Richard Hamilton tied the game with a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds to go, but Carlos Delfino ran over Armstrong as both went for a loose ball at the other end.

“I saw Jermaine (O’Neal) and Tayshaun Prince go up for the ball, and I was just looking for a deflection,” Armstrong said. “When the ball came to me, my eyes got real big. I tried to get to the basket, but I never had a chance.”

Delfino said he was just trying to get to Armstrong as quickly as possible.

“I tried to contest it, but it was hard to control myself,” he said. “I tried to foul him so he wouldn’t shoot the ball.”

After both Hamilton and Flip Murray got in his face, Armstrong missed the first free throw but sank the second.

“Rip was just messing with my head—he kept touching my shooting hand and telling me to miss them for him,” he said. “The first one felt good, so I knew I was going to make the second one.”

Rasheed Wallace’s desperation pass flew out of bounds, giving the Pacers the win in a game that saw them go on a 35-7 run and give up one of 30-10.

“This can be an important win for us,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “But it will only be big if we can sustain this.”

Jermaine O’Neal missed Indiana’s previous game with flu-like symptoms, but returned with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

“I’m probably 65 or 70 percent,” O’Neal said. “This is the best I’ve felt in the last five days, though. They think it might have been the beginnings of pneumonia, but I’m bouncing back now.”

Al Harrington added 16 points for Indiana, while Jamaal Tinsley had 14 points and nine assists.

Billups led Detroit with 23 points and a career-best 12 rebounds before the injury. Hamilton, coming off a career-high 51 points in Wednesday’s triple-overtime loss to the Knicks, finished with 22 on 7-of-18 shooting.

Billups’ 3-pointer with 18 seconds left pulled Detroit within 89-88, but he landed awkwardly and had to be helped off the floor.

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

Stephen Jackson hit a pair of free throws, but Hamilton’s layup moved the margin back to 91-90.

This time, Danny Granger could only split his free throws, and Hamilton drew a foul from Jackson, allowing him to tie the game.

Indiana led 48-47 after a roller-coaster first half that saw both teams alternating stretches of dominance and futility.

The Pacers jumped out to a 12-2 lead, only to see the Pistons go on an extended run that put them up 32-22 at the end of the first.

Detroit built the advantage to as many as 15 in the second, but Indiana closed the half with a 19-4 surge of their own.

The intermission didn’t help Detroit, as the Pacers quickly upped the lead to 64-50. The Pistons missed nine of their first 10 second-half shots.

The Pistons charged back, and pulled within 67-64 on Billups’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer from midcourt.

“NBA players are going to make shots like that, and Chauncey’s certainly got that kind of range,” Carlisle said. “We just had to gather ourselves and keep our composure. That’s how it was all night.”

Detroit couldn’t get closer than three until Tayshaun Prince’s follow shot made it 83-82 with three minutes to play. The Pacers scored the next five points, but couldn’t put away the Pistons.

Notes

The Pacers held their pregame shootaround at nearby Oakland University, alma mater of Indiana swingman Rawle Marshall. Marshall, the school’s first NBA player, was inactive for the game. … Kid Rock, Lions defensive back Dre Bly and Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek attended the game. … Tinsley and Jackson, two key figures in the 2004 Palace brawl, picked up first-half technicals for arguing calls. … Wallace played just 22 minutes while batting a stomach illness and sore ankles.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Indiana
J. O'Neal J. O'Neal
9-22,  25 Pts
13 Rebs, 2 Assists
 Detroit
C. Billups C. Billups
7-19,  23 Pts
12 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

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Rebounds
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Friday, Dec 29