Pistons Drop a Close Contest to San Antonio

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The San Antonio Spurs thought their latest victory should have been an easier one.

"We didn't execute as well," Manu Ginobili said after the Spurs' beat the Detroit Pistons 90-89 Friday night. "We should have finished five or six points ahead instead of two or three."

Tony Parker led San Antonio with 22 points, Tim Duncan added 17 points and 14 rebounds and Brent Barry had 16 points.

"Any time you play against Detroit it's going to be a physical game. It's going to be tough," Parker said. "I knew I had to be aggressive to make some stuff happen."

Rasheed Wallace had 21 points and another technical foul for Detroit, which has dropped its first two games on a three-game road trip. Antonio McDyess had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Richard Hamilton added 16 points, but missed a pair of free throws in the final minute.

The Spurs took the lead for good at 50-49 on Barry's 3-pointer 1:21 into the third quarter, but the game remained close the rest of the way. Ginobili, who had 10 points, gave his team a nine-point lead with 2:21 left, but the Spurs almost blew it.

McDyess cut the Spurs' lead to 85-84 with 18 seconds left, and Ginobili answered with two free throws.

Bruce Bowen fouled Hamilton, but the Pistons' All-Star missed both shots from the line. McDyess promptly fouled Duncan, who gave the Spurs an 88-84 lead by hitting one of two free throws.

Chauncey Billups, who struggled for three quarters, hit a jumper to make it 88-86 with 4.9 on the clock. Ginobili made two more from the line to end the night 5-of-5 and make it a two-possession game. Tayshaun Prince's last-second 3 wasn't enough.

Billups had 13 points and Prince added 12. Francisco Elson had 10 rebounds for San Antonio.

"Every win is important and every loss is important if you can learn from it," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Popovich said the game had a playoff-like atmosphere, and it's possible fans got a preview of the finals on Friday. Detroit leads the Eastern Conference, while San Antonio is third in the Western Conference behind Dallas and Phoenix and has clinched a playoff spot.

Parker had 10 points as San Antonio quickly took control in the first quarter, leading by as many as 13. The Spurs' shooting clearly frustrated the Pistons, evidenced when Wallace got a technical early in the second for complaining. It was Wallace's 18th technical of the season, meaning he'll face another one-game suspension.

"I wish they would review the whole 48 (minutes)," said Pistons coach Flip Saunders. "If they're going to give him a 'T' for that, there should have been about four others called at least."

Prince said slow starts are hurting Detroit.

"We had a great second quarter," he said. "It seems like when we get down a lot, we start playing good basketball. Then when we get it back even, we go in the hole again. It's something you can't do, especially on the road."

San Antonio cooled, and Wallace's 15 points helped Detroit chip away. Wallace hit a 3 from the top of the arc that tied it at 41 with 2:42 to go in the half. Prince's fast-break layup gave the Pistons their first lead 22 seconds later.

Both Billups, who returned to the lineup Thursday night in Houston after a groin strain, and Chris Webber sat out the entire second quarter.

Billups said he was frustrated with his play Friday but that his leg is feeling better.

"Chauncey is still trying to get into his rhythm," Saunders said.

The Spurs went 3-of-4 from 3-point range in the third quarter, while Detroit was 0-of-6. San Antonio went up 71-61, but Detroit opened the fourth with a 7-1 run and pulled with three with 4:44 left.

Then Duncan, who had been 1-of-5 at the foul line to that point, sank two critical free throws. Ginobili followed with the clutch 3-pointer with 3:46 to go and came through again when he drove to the basket with 2:21 left for an 85-76 lead.

Billups sank four foul shots and a basket to get Detroit within three with less than a minute to go.

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