AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Chauncey Billups is conflicted about the way the Detroit Pistons fell apart when they traded him.
Denver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups shoots over Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Tuesday, March 3, 2009.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
"Of course, I don't like to see them struggle," Billups said. "But it kind of shows what I meant to this team."
Billups went from journeyman to All-Star in Detroit, leading the franchise to the 2004 NBA title as finals MVP and to the Eastern Conference finals the past six seasons.
The Pistons traded him to Denver for Allen Iverson early this season and slipped from NBA elite to mediocrity.
With Iverson out with an injury and Nuggets All-Star Carmelo Anthony suspended, Detroit beat the Nuggets 100-95 Tuesday night in Billups first game at the Palace as an ex-Piston.
Billups scored a season-high 34 points after fans gave him a standing ovation that lasted a couple of minutes. He responded by blowing kisses to the crowd.
"I may forget the game and what happened," he said. "But the ovation and warm welcome the fans gave me, I'll never forget."
Detroit has won three straight for the first time in two months — after losing seven straight — and hadn't been victorious at home since Feb. 4 against Miami.
Instead of challenging for home-court advantage in the playoffs, or a division title, as they have for several years, the Pistons have been inconsistent at best since trading Billups for Iverson.
"It's just sad to see we're 30-29," guard Richard Hamilton said.
Tayshaun Prince scored 23 for the Pistons and four of his teammates added at least 16.
The Nuggets suspended Anthony for the game after he refused to go to the bench against Indiana on Sunday when Karl tried to take him out.
"In my mind, that crossed the line," Karl said.
The Nuggets have lost five of seven, letting their division lead slip to a game over Portland and 1 1/2 games ahead of Utah. They host the Trail Blazers on Thursday, then play on the road the next night against the Jazz.
"I give our players an A-plus for courage," Karl said. "It was a good try, but we're getting tired of having good tries. We need some wins."
Magic 111, Suns 99
At Orlando, Fla., Dwight Howard had 21 points and eight rebounds in a bruising battle with Shaquille O'Neal, and the Magic's new All-Star center got the best of it's first star big man.
Rashard Lewis had 29 points and Hedo Turkoglu scored 22 for the Magic, who overcame a season-high 24 turnovers.
O'Neal finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but his technical foul with 3:38 left contributed to nine straight points for the Magic that gave Orlando a 10-point lead to put the game out of reach.
Nets 99, Bucks 95
At Milwaukee, Brook Lopez scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Jarvis Hayes hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to lift New Jersey.
It was the Nets' third win in the last four games after a five-game losing streak
New Jersey is a half-game behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Charlie Villanueva had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost five of their last seven.
Lakers 99, Grizzlies 89
At Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 31 points and the Lakers avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.
The Lakers' Pau Gasol, matched in the middle against younger brother Marc, had 13 points and eight rebounds. Marc Gasol had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Memphis.
Bobcats 96, Bulls 80
At Charlotte, N.C., Raymond Felton had 18 points and nine assists, Raja Bell also scored 18 points and Charlotte won its season-high fourth straight.
Without forwards Luol Deng (leg) and Tim Thomas (knee), Chicago fell behind early and never recovered. Tyrus Thomas had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the sloppy Bulls, who shot 39 percent.
Rockets 107, Raptors 97
At Houston, Carl Landry matched a career high with 22 points, Luis Scola added 20 points and 16 rebounds and the Rockets extended their home winning streak to 10.
Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani scored 25 points apiece and Jose Calderon matched a career high with 16 assists for the Raptors, who've lost seven of their last eight road games.
Warriors 118, Timberwolves 94
At Minneapolis, Stephen Jackson, who had been benched the past two games as part of coach Don Nelson's youth movement, had 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead Golden State.
Corey Maggette added 16 points and Andris Biedrins had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Warriors, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Kevin Love had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost their 15th in 17 games.
Pacers 117, Kings 109
At Sacramento, Calif., Jarrett Jack scored 26 points and Troy Murphy had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead Indiana.
The Pacers pulled within two games of Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff berth in the East.
Kevin Martin scored 21 points for the Kings, who have dropped two straight and five of six.