Tuesday , Mar , 21 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Pistons clinch division title with win over Hawks

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Rasheed Wallace had 26 points and eight
rebounds as Detroit clinched the Central Division with a 91-84 victory over
Atlanta at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Tayshaun Prince added 18 points while Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups
each had 14 for the Pistons, who recorded their 15th consecutive win at the
Palace and wrapped up their fourth division crown in five years.

“It’s a five-step process,” said Detroit head coach Flip Saunders. “One, you
want to get in the playoffs. We did that about two weeks ago. You want to win
your division, which is going to pretty much lock in home court, at least
through the first two rounds. Now what you want to do is secure home court in
the East. Then secure home court overall and then the championship.”

Al Harrington finished with 23 points for the Hawks, who snapped a four-game
losing streak with an overtime win Sunday against Orlando. Joe Johnson netted
17 in defeat.

The Hawks held an 15-12 lead midway through the first quarter, but Detroit
outscored Atlanta 18-5 over the remainder of the period to move comfortably in

The Pistons scored the last eight points of the quarter, ending with a layup
and free throw by Hamilton in the closing seconds that put the Pistons up

After Esteban Batista’s layup to start the second frame cut Atlanta’s deficit
to eight, Detroit embarked on an 18-6 run to break open the game.

Maurice Evans had eight points during the spurt, including a triple with 5:35
remaining before intermission which gave the Pistons a 46-28 advantage.
Wallace followed with a putback to extend the margin to 20 points.

“We played great basketball in the first half,” Prince said. “We stepped our
defense up in the first quarter and kept it up throughout the second.”

Detroit led 53-34 at halftime, but Atlanta put together a 13-4 burst over the
first five minutes of the third quarter and moved within 57-47 after a three-
point play from Harrington. The Hawks trailed 72-60 heading into the final 12

“We kind of got disoriented by not running our stuff,” said Harrington on the
first half. “But we came out and played the way we’re supposed to in the
second half.”

Billups then opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and fed Evans for
an easy dunk off a steal to lengthen Detroit’s cushion to 17 points.

Game Notes

Atlanta rookie Marvin Williams, who was attending to his ill father, was not
with the team. He is expected to rejoin the Hawks for Wednesday’s game at
Philadelphia…Detroit’s last loss at home came on January 7 to Utah…Ben
Wallace pulled down 13 rebounds for the Pistons…Zaza Pachulia finished with
11 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta…Detroit has won six of the last seven
meetings between the teams.