NBA

76ers 104, Pistons 94

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)

The Detroit Pistons played with lackluster effort for a half against the Philadelphia 76ers, leading their first-year coach to criticize their intensity and at least one player to agree with him.

Elton Brand matched a season high with 25 points and was one of six double-digit scorers for Philadelphia in a 104-94 victory over the Pistons on Saturday night.

``I thought we were passive at times,'' Detroit coach John Kuester said.

That seemed surprising because Detroit has lost 12 straight in its worst slump since April 1994.

``It's very discouraging that we had no sense of urgency - none - in the first half,'' Charlie Villanueva said. ``We were down 26 to the Philadelphia 76ers, not to take anything away from them. We played with some fight in the second half, but it was too late.''

Allen Iverson didn't make his relatively anticipated return to The Palace, drawing boos from the crowd when it was announced he would not play because of an injured left knee. Iverson had a short and unsuccessful stint with Detroit last season after it acquired him from Denver for Chauncey Billups to create salary-cap space and playing time for Rodney Stuckey.

Kuester bristled at the notion that Iverson was trying to avoid jeers.

``That would never be the case,'' said Kuester, who spent several years with Iverson as a Philadelphia assistant coach. ``Allen Iverson is one of the ultimate competitors.''

The Sixers (11-25) have been slightly worse than Detroit (11-24) this season, but they were easily good enough to win the lackluster matchup.

``We've been in the position they are, and it is hard to not hang your head,'' Philadelphia guard Willie Green said.

Philadelphia led 26-10 after a quarter, 56-30 at halftime and relaxed enough to let Detroit have comeback hopes.

``I thought our first-half defense was really good,'' Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said. ``We weren't bad in the second half, either, but we came out with a lot of energy and aggressiveness in the first half. We were really getting after it.''

The Pistons pulled within 17 after three quarters and cut their deficit to 86-75 with 6 minutes left, then they collapsed on the hot-shooting Brand and he set up rookie Jrue Holiday's 3-pointer that essentially sealed the win.

Detroit rallied to trail by single digits in the final minute to make the score look respectable after it was lopsided for much of the night.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert each had 16 points, Green scored 15, Lou Williams had 14 and Thaddeus Young made two free throws in the final seconds to finish with 10 points.

Brand was 10 of 16 - making several fadeaway jumpers - off the bench.

``I thought Elton carried us offensively all night,'' Jordan said. ``He's coming around. He's getting his legs under him, and he hasn't had that this season.

``The shots that have been short are finally starting to fall. He's a former All-Star and that's why he's here.''

Detroit reserves Ben Gordon had 20 points and Villanueva scored 19, while fellow former Connecticut star Richard Hamilton missed his first 10 shots and finished with 12 points.

Pistons rookie Austin Daye scored all of his 10 points in the second half after not playing in the first and Ben Wallace had 10 points.

Stuckey (sore right knee) and Tayshaun Prince (sore left knee) did not play in the second half because of injuries and perhaps a 26-point deficit.

``I knew going into it we might not have them the entire game,'' Kuester said.

Gordon was hurt late in the game, injuring his right thigh.

The Pistons scored just 10 in the first quarter, matching their season low in any quarter, as they missed 19 of 23 shots. They were held to a season-low 30 in the first half after shooting just 29 percent.

NOTES: The Pistons lost 14 straight during the 1993-94 season - before a 13-game skid that same season in March - to match a franchise record set in March of 1980. ... Gordon's jumper with 3:51 left in the first half was the 10 millionth point in NBA history. New York's Ossie Schectman scored the first point in the league on Nov. 1, 1946, at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. ... Detroit G Will Bynum (left ankle) missed his fifth straight game. ... Green was presented with a proclamation from the City of Detroit at halftime for his charity work in his hometown. ... Detroit might not have an NBA or an NHL team in the playoffs for the first time since 1983.

Tagged: Pistons, 76ers, Elton Brand, Willie Green, Ben Gordon

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