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Miami at Detroit

Pistons handle Heat, clinch Central Division title

CBSSports.com wire reports
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- When Arron Afflalo gets a rare start for the Detroit Pistons, he knows he isn't going to be the focus of the opposing defense.

Thursday, the rookie took advantage.

Afflalo, starting in place of the injured Richard Hamilton, had a career-high 15 points as the Pistons clinched the Central Division title with a 85-69 victory over the Miami Heat.

"I'm out there with four All-Star-caliber players, so they aren't going to be paying much attention to me," Afflalo said. "I hit a couple shots early and that let me get comfortable."

Afflalo talked to the media while watching his alma mater, UCLA, take on Western Kentucky in an NCAA tournament game.

"The best part about my situation is that I've got a lot of veteran teammates that have all been through this before," he said. "They are able to calm me down and tell me what to do."

Despite their constant teasing about his poor dunking ability -- Rasheed Wallace told him after the game to shoot 3-pointers on the fast break to avoid embarrassment -- Afflalo has earned the respect of his teammates.

"He's done a great job all year," said Chauncey Billups. "He's worked hard in practice, he works hard before games, and when he gets an opportunity, he takes it. He's been big."

The win ensured Detroit's fourth straight division title and sixth in the last seven years.

"It means a lot," Billups said. "Every year, we're picked to finish second, third, maybe even fourth, but at the end, we're in first. That feels good."

Detroit didn't clinch the title in stellar form, though. The Pistons came in having lost three of four, and struggled against the hapless Heat.

"Those guys had nothing to lose, and they were going to try to prove some things -- earn a roster spot or secure things for next year," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We executed down the stretch. Any time you hold a team, I don't care who it is, to 24 points in the second half, you have a chance to win."

Miami, which has lost 13 of 15, dressed nine players, including four rookies and two second-year players.

"It's hard to evaluate young guys when you aren't playing them with your best players," said Miami coach Pat Riley. "We're asking them to do things we wouldn't normally expect them to do."

Rookie Blake Ahearn, who came into the game with seven career points, led Miami with 15, but only two other players reached double figures.

"The guys that are out there playing, we have a lot of pride," said Chris Quinn, who led Miami's starters with 11 points. "The only thing we can do is play as hard as possible. We've got 10 or 11 games left, and we've got to leave it all out there."

Reserve Jason Maxiell had 15 points for Detroit, while Billups added 13 points and 11 assists.

Miami led for most of the first half and had an eight-point advantage late in the second quarter, but Detroit narrowed the gap to 45-43 at intermission. The Heat outrebounded the Pistons 20-15 in the half, including a 6-1 advantage on the offensive boards.

The Pistons went ahead early in the third quarter, but wasted an opportunity to build a big lead. They missed seven free throws in the period, including five by Antonio McDyess.

That let the Heat stay in the game, but Detroit had expanded the margin to 66-55 by quarter's end. Maxiell had 11 points and five rebounds in the period.

Miami got within 70-65 with 7:30 to go, but Wallace answered with a 3-pointer. Afflalo's three-point play moved the lead to 80-69 with 2:39 left and the Pistons finally took control.

Detroit outscored Miami 42-24 in the second half, holding the Heat to 27 percent shooting.

"In these type of games, you try to battle through it and find a way," said Tayshaun Prince. "Defensively, we found a way."

Notes

  • The team announced its 220th straight sellout, but there were a large number of empty seats due to a spring snowstorm in the Detroit area.
  • Ricky Davis was the only of Miami's five leading scorers to play.
  • Riley will be away from his team Friday and Saturday to scout NCAA tournament games. It hasn't been determined if he'll coach the Heat at Boston on Sunday.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Pistons rookie Arron Afflalo scores 15 points, making the most of his opportunity to start. (AP)
Pistons rookie Arron Afflalo scores 15 points, making the most of his opportunity to start. (AP)

Scoreboard
Miami (13-59) 2322101469
Detroit (51-21) «1825231985
MIA:B. Ahearn 15 Pts
MIA:M. Blount 6 Reb
MIA:C. Quinn 7 Ast
DET:J. Maxiell 15 Pts
DET:T. Prince 8 Reb
DET:C. Billups 11 Ast
Players of the Game
DetroitMiami

C. Billups

C. Quinn
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
133111157
Miami
R. Davis, SG442-93-45227
K. Powell, SF341-80-04322
C. Quinn, PG333-104-457511
M. Blount, C254-80-06108
E. Barron, C255-110-032010
B. Ahearn, PG323-108-942315
S. Lasme, PF234-70-04038
J. Anthony, C141-21-13043
A. Johnson, SF91-23-40035
S. Marion, PFDid Not Play
D. Wright, SFDid Not Play
M. Banks, PGDid Not Play
D. Wade, SGDid Not Play
U. Haslem, PFDid Not Play
J. Williams, PGDid Not Play
D. Cook, SGDid Not Play
K. Powell, CDid Not Play
A. Mourning, CDid Not Play
Totals 24-6719-2234172269
 35.8%86.4% 
Detroit
T. Prince, SF354-130-08118
C. Billups, PG345-93-3311413
A. Afflalo, SG335-95-670215
R. Wallace, PF315-91-141013
A. McDyess, PF303-75-1022111
R. Stuckey, SG202-60-01324
A. Johnson, SF171-40-03022
J. Maxiell, PF165-65-770015
J. Hayes, SF130-10-02210
L. Hunter, SG101-30-00032
W. Herrmann, SF21-10-00002
T. Ratliff, CDid Not Play
R. Hamilton, SGDid Not Play
J. Dixon, SGDid Not Play
C. Samb, CDid Not Play
Totals 32-6819-2737201685
 47.1%70.4% 
Other Games
Dal 105 Final
Den 118
Port 95 Final
GS 111