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Billups leads new-look Pistons to win

The SportsXchange

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Chauncey Billups gave the new-look Detroit Pistons a taste of what it was like to play in The Palace during the glory years.

Making his first start for the Pistons since he was traded early in the 2008-09 season, Billups scored 16 points and tossed in two momentum-changing 3-pointers. That lifted the Pistons to a 113-102 victory over the Washington Wizards in the season opener for both teams on Wednesday.

The crowd of 19,256 exploded with noise and chanted his name after each of his 3-pointers, just like they did in 2004 when he led the franchise to its third NBA championship. Billups left the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent to finish his career where it peaked in the mid-2000s.

"It just feels like home," said Billups, who also had five assists. "It feels like old times. The energy in the building sounded familiar. I hadn't seen that in awhile around here. It felt really good. We fed off of that."

Billups' club also fed off the potent inside trio of Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond. Monroe powered for 24 points and 16 rebounds while Smith, Detroit's high-priced free agent acquisition, had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Drummond added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Pistons, who outscored the Wizards 56-28 in the paint.

"That's where we feel our advantage is, with those three big guys," Billups said. "We should have an advantage 90 percent of the nights in this league. We've just got to go to that. The good thing about it is all those guys are really good passers and we have perimeter shooters as well."

Will Bynum contributed 19 points and five assists for Detroit while Trevor Ariza led Washington with 28 points and 10 rebounds. John Wall had a double-double with 20 points and 11 assists. Bradley Beal chipped in 17 points.

Both teams carried playoff aspirations into the new season after 29-53 campaigns in 2012-13, but Detroit dominated virtually from the opening tap. The Pistons shot 50 percent from the field and had a 44-38 rebounding advantage.

"I saw us do things we haven't done in a month with our defensive rules," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "It almost looked like from a defensive standpoint we went out and played a pickup game. When we score 102 and lose by double digits, we're not doing a very good job defensively."

Washington trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, but cut the deficit to six before Smith made a 3-pointer. Smith added a tip-in late in the quarter to give Detroit a 79-66 lead, but the Wizards pulled within 81-73 entering the fourth.

When Marcin Gortat tapped in a miss, Detroit's advantage was down to 89-85. Kyle Singler then answered with a three-point play and a Billups 3-pointer midway through the quarter put the Pistons back up by double digits, 97-87.

Another 3-pointer by Billups made it a 13-point spread, and the Wizards never seriously threatened from that point.

"He doesn't have the nickname Mr. Big Shot for anything," Monroe said. "He hit some big shots, especially hitting a couple when they were on runs, so he definitely lived up to his name today."

Detroit's interior strength was apparent early on, as it outscored Washington 32-8 in the paint while building a 55-43 halftime lead. Monroe and Drummond combined for 21 points and 18 rebounds while Smith kept the ball moving by collecting a team-high four assists.

"It was a little bit of everything," Wittman said. "Offensively, we were really bad in the first half. Our shot selection was terrible, which led them to get easy breakouts. We got beat in every category -- points in the paint, second-chance points, fast-break points and rebounding."

NOTES: Starting guard Brandon Jennings (hairline fracture of mandible) and Rodney Stuckey (fractured thumb) were inactive for Detroit. First-round pick Otto Porter (right hip flexor), who was unable to practice during training camp, missed the game for Washington. ... Billups, the NBA Finals MVP when Detroit defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004, made his first start with the Pistons since being traded early in the 2008-09 season to Denver. He rejoined the Pistons this season, signing a two-year free-agent contract. ... Detroit lost its previous four home openers. ... The Wizards' backcourt of Beal and Wall started just eight games together last season because of injuries. Washington was 6-2 in those games. ... Washington was 21-31 all-time in season openers and 10-23 on the road. ... The Pistons swept the four-game season series a year ago.
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