SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The Detroit Pistons were facing a game that, if lost, would have given them their longest losing streak of the season.
Even if that had happened—and it didn’t—Rasheed Wallace wasn’t going to let it get him down.
“We could lose five or six games in a row, but we’re the type of team, we don’t hang our heads and walk around moping,” said Wallace, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds to carry Detroit to a 90-80 victory Thursday night over the San Antonio Spurs.
Detroit snapped a two-game losing streak, and handed the Spurs their second loss in a row and third of the season at home.
The Pistons bounced back from a loss in Dallas on Wednesday night, keeping the Spurs at bay beginning with a burst late in the first quarter and eventually going up by as many as 20 points.
And with the losing streak behind his team, Wallace couldn’t help looking forward.
“This is a good team. I think, in my opinion, this is one of the teams we’ll see in the finals,” Wallace said. “So, it’s always a good game with us and San Antonio.”
But the marquee matchup between the defending champion Spurs, who on Thursday fell from second to a tie for third in the West, and the 2004 champion Pistons, second in the East, looked more like a dud for most of the night.
Not only were the Spurs having trouble creating offense, partly because they couldn’t hold onto the ball and committed 15 turnovers, they weren’t getting stops, either.
“It’s not even the turnovers,” Duncan said. “It’s just everything: The missed shots, the turnovers, the turnovers turn into easy baskets, us working hard and them getting an easy play at the other end. Just all of that came at once tonight.”
The Pistons had their way with San Antonio nearly every trip down the court. Whether cutting to the basket or hitting long jumpers and a few 3s, Detroit built its lead to as many as 20 points. The Pistons kept the lead for good after going ahead 16-15 with 3:30 left in the first quarter off of Hamilton’s fast-break layup.
The Spurs were within nine with a quarter to play after closing in during the third, but Detroit built the lead back up to 14.
Lindsey Hunter’s fast-break layup, before which he looked back to see that he was all alone and could slow it down on the way to the basket, gave Detroit a 78-64 lead with 6:08 to play.
But Chauncey Billups hit an easy, and key, layup off a pass from Hamilton to put Detroit up again by 10. Wallace hit another easy layup with 1:30 to go to give Detroit an 88-76 lead and put the game away.
“When Sheed is locked in and focused like that, he is, without a doubt, our No. 1 option,” said Billups, who added 11 points for Detroit. “He does something out there that nobody can do.”
Backup point guard Jacque Vaughn scored 10 points for San Antonio.
Detroit went on a 16-0 run over 3:30 to close the first quarter, and by the end of the period had scored twice as many points as the Spurs and were up 30-15.
“During six minutes we were outscored about 20-to-2 and we spent the night trying to climb back from that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “So we played 42 and not 48 (minutes) and that’s not good enough against a team like Detroit.”
The Pistons stayed ahead by the same margin by the end of the second as they held a commanding 54-39 halftime lead over the struggling Spurs, who scored consecutive baskets just once during the second quarter and were outrebounded 18-14 in the half.
By the time 2:41 was left on the clock in the third, the Spurs cut their deficit to single digits for the first time since late in the opening period. Duncan further reduced the margin, to 63-56, with his dunk off a pass from Manu Ginobili.
Indeed it was Duncan, the only San Antonio in the double digits by the time three quarters were gone, who kept the Spurs alive. He had 10 points in the third.
By contrast, Detroit was leveling a balanced attack on the home team. Hamilton, Wallace and Prince combined for 46 points for Detroit heading into the fourth quarter, when Detroit started out with a 67-58 advantage.
Spurs G Brent Barry remained out with a torn muscle in his left calf. Popovich said Barry will be out another week at the most. … The Spurs on Thursday signed G-F Jeremy Richardson. … Popovich will have to wait at least until Saturday for his 600th career victory. … Before the game, Detroit coach Flip Saunders said of Wallace, who was averaging 12.8 points heading into Thursday: “I don’t think we can just judge him by what he’s doing offensively as far as on whether he’s ready to play. Because I think even when he hasn’t been good offensively at times, he’s always been there and done things from a defensive standpoint.”