NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Tim Duncan made his move to the basket and didn’t come close to scoring. After he released the ball, the San Antonio star fell to the ground, the victim of a stray elbow from Detroit’s Ben Wallace.
What began as a mismatch between the streaking Spurs and rebuilding Pistons had turned into an enthralling showdown between Duncan and Wallace, two veteran big men facing each other for perhaps the final time.
“Two old guys trying to get it done for their teams,” said the 37-year-old Wallace, who plans to retire after this season.
Duncan’s Spurs came out on top, overcoming a spirited Detroit rally to beat the Pistons 99-95 on Tuesday night for their eighth consecutive victory. Duncan had 18 points and 13 rebounds, spoiling a special night for Wallace, who played in his 1,055th game — a record for an undrafted player since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger.
Wallace drew a standing ovation when his record was announced after the first quarter, and he ignited the crowd again later on when Detroit rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit. Wallace finished with nine points and five rebounds.
“That was great. He’s always in great shape, and he’s moving well, and he was really active,” the 35-year-old Duncan said. “I asked him on the floor how much longer he was going to play, and he said he was done after this year. I told him he’s had an unbelievable career.”
The Spurs and Pistons aren’t scheduled to play again in the regular season, so this may have been the final meeting between Duncan and Wallace. Duncan outplayed Greg Monroe, Detroit’s young big man, but the Pistons stuck with Wallace down the stretch, and the four-time defensive player of the year helped swing momentum in Detroit’s favor.
Finally, San Antonio’s Tony Parker made a driving layup with 1:13 remaining to break a 91-all tie and put the Spurs ahead to stay. Parker also made a floater with 27.2 seconds left to make it 95-92.
After Ben Gordon missed from the left corner with Duncan contesting, the Detroit guard was called for a technical foul, and the Spurs held on.
“I thought Detroit did a great job in the fourth. We got up 15 or 16, but they got physical on defense and moved the ball.” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’ve got three veteran players out there in Tim, Manu (Ginobili) and Tony, and they made plays down the stretch when we needed them.”
Down 79-64, the Pistons went on a 14-0 run that included the seventh 3-pointer of Wallace’s career. Later, with the Spurs up 83-82, Duncan missed inside and was caught by Wallace’s elbow. While Duncan remained on the ground, Detroit’s Brandon Knight scored while being fouled at the other end to give the Pistons the lead with 5:28 remaining.
Duncan stayed in the game with what looked like a bandage under his left eye. Less than a minute later it was Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey sprawled on the floor after he appeared to be hit in the head by Ginobili’s knee.
The Spurs began fouling Wallace intentionally, and he finished 4 of 8 from the free throw line, including two airballs. He tied the game at 91 with a free throw with 2:06 remaining, but Parker put San Antonio ahead with his drive.
Wallace’s 3-pointer was his first since Dec. 11, 2010.
“Three-ball — that ain’t nothing that you all haven’t seen before,” Wallace said. “They hacked me. I made a couple free throws, shot a couple airballs — still ain’t nothing that you all have never seen before.”
Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said he wasn’t about to pull Wallace when he was being fouled intentionally.
“He earned the right to be in there,” Frank said. “Ben turned the game around.”
Stuckey led the Pistons with 23 points.
San Antonio had seven players in double figures. Parker scored 14 points, and Richard Jefferson and Tiago Splitter had 13 each.
NOTES: It was the fourth game of a nine-game road trip for the Spurs. … The Pistons have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak. … Wallace moved one game ahead of former Spur Avery Johnson on the list of games played by undrafted players.
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