Playing the Eastern Conference-leading Magic (14-7), the former champions solved some early ball control problems and took advantage of three Orlando turnovers in four late possessions. In a 33-second span, Richard Hamilton turned two of those mistakes into four Detroit points that gave the Pistons the lead for good.
"We've been in a million games like this, where it comes down to the last four or five minutes," said Billups, who shot 11-of-16 despite a hamstring injury. "We just stay poised out there."
The Pistons (13-7) beat the Dallas Mavericks 92-82 on Thursday night. Orlando has lost two in a row and three of its last four.
The Magic maintained a slim fourth-quarter lead most of the way despite missing nine of their first 11 shots in the period.
Flip Murray put Detroit up 82-80, its first lead since 8:01 in the third quarter, on a 12-foot turnaround jumper with about 2:30 left.
"Right now, they are the best team in the Eastern Conference," Billups said. "We knew they were going to come out fresh. They made a quick run and we withstood that."
"I just think that we didn't make shots that we should have made," Howard said. "We had a couple turnovers that gave them the game. I don't like losing, period, but we've got a game tomorrow."
Hamilton finished with 14 points and a season-high 10 rebounds, Rasheed Wallace had 13 points and six assists and Murray had 13 points.
Billups scored 16 of Detroit's 26 third-quarter points, hitting 5-of-6 from the floor. The last bucket was an 18-foot jumper with 0.6 seconds left in the period.
"Sometimes when you're not 100 percent you have a tendency to slow down a little bit and almost play better at times, because as you slow down your mind slows down and things become a little clearer," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
Both teams struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 65 percent. Howard, ordinarily one of the Magic's worst shooters from the line, went 11-of-13.
"In a close game we can't miss 12 free throws and expect to be in the game at the end," Magic coach Brian Hill said.
Leading by three points at the end of the first quarter, the Magic expanded their lead to eight while resting all of their starters in the second quarter. But Murray led the Pistons back with six points on a 10-2 run over 3:09 that tied it at 33.
Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu was carried off the court in the first quarter after spraining his right ankle. Turkoglu appeared to step on Tayshaun Prince's foot going for a rebound with 1½ minutes left in the period. Ariza played heavily in his absence and hit 4-of-5 from the field, but missed five of his seven free throws.
- Pistons G Lindsey Hunter (sprained left ankle) missed his second straight game.
- Detroit, averaging a league-low 12 turnovers, had nine in the first half, but finished with 13 to Orlando's 14.
- The Pistons made 6-of-12 from 3-point range, compared with 3-of-13 for the Magic.