ATLANTA (AP)—Chauncey Billups missed every shot he tried through the first three quarters.
Not to worry. The fourth is his time.
Living up to the nickname “Mr. Big Shot,” Billups scored 12 of his 16 points in the final period to rally the Detroit Pistons to their ninth win in a row, 94-90 over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
“You know me, man, you know me,” Billups said. “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.”
Rasheed Wallace carried the load in the early going, scoring 15 straight points for the Pistons in the first quarter on his way to a 21-point night. The Hawks lost their third in a row despite 30 points from Josh Smith.
Billups went into the final quarter at 0-for-8 from the field, but that didn’t keep him from putting up some more. He ripped off 10 straight points for Detroit, including a couple of 3s, to turn a three-point deficit into an 89-86 lead with 2:25 remaining.
“It was like a lid was on the basket most of the game,” Billups said. “Some of those shots (in the fourth) were the same shots I shot early in the game. I just couldn’t stick them.
Appropriately, he finished off with the biggest shot of the game, a jumper over Anthony Johnson with 22 seconds remaining for a 92-89 lead.
“That’s what type of player he is,” Smith moaned. “His nickname is ‘Mr. Big Shot.’ In the clutch, everybody knows he’s going to take the shot.”
After Billups’ final basket, Smith was fouled but made only one free throw. Richard Hamilton did what Smith couldn’t, hitting both foul shots with 14 seconds left to seal the win.
The Hawks were held to 3-of-19 shooting in the fourth by the gritty Pistons, who let an early 15-point lead slip away but rebounded at the end.
“We had good looks,” Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. “We just couldn’t get the ball to go down.”
Wallace got off to a brilliant start, hitting his first six shots— including three 3-pointers. Detroit twice led by 15 in the second quarter before the Hawks responded.
Atlanta closed to 55-48 by halftime, and kept up the momentum in the third as the visitors turned cold.
“If we had played the whole game like we did in the second half, things would have been different,” said rookie Al Horford, who had 16 rebounds to lead the Hawks to a 47-34 lead on the boards.
The Pistons went nearly 6 minutes without a field goal, allowing the Hawks to surge ahead on Horford’s three-point play midway through the third. The rookie pumped his fist after being fouled, then stepped to the line and swished the free throw.
The Hawks led 76-74 after a frenetic final minute to the period. Arron Afflalo came up with a steal and was going in for a layup, but Smith soared out of nowhere for the block.
Atlanta took off the other way and Marvin Williams went in for a dunk, but the ball rimmed out. The Pistons tried to start a fast break of their own, but the Hawks stole it away near midcourt and Williams got another shot at the dunk. This time he didn’t miss, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Detroit swept the season series, winning all four meetings against Atlanta, though the teams could face each other again in the playoffs. The Pistons are No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, while the Hawks are percentage points out of the seventh slot.
“It doesn’t matter to me who we play,” Wallace said. “We have a job to do. We have a mission. They’re going to be in the way.”
Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones watched from a courtside seat, as did longtime Braves OF Andruw Jones. The team reports to spring training on Thursday, but they’ll do it without Andruw Jones, who signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers during the offseason. … Hamilton was under the weather, apparently suffering from a case of food poisoning, and it showed. He managed 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. … Showing off their depth, the Pistons had points from 10 players with 4 minutes left in the first half. … The Hawks could have used a win heading into a long road trip. They play at Charlotte on Thursday, then head out on a five-game West Coast swing after the All-Star break.