AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Ron Artest blew kisses to Detroit fans Friday, and why not? He finally has a pleasant memory to take from here.
Artest, suspended 73 games after instigating a November 2004 brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills, came off the bench last night to score 18 points, including a key basket late in the game, to lift the Sacramento Kings to a 100-93 victory over the Pistons.
Artest was in a friendly mood after making a 3-pointer with less than four minutes to go to give the Kings a cushion they'd never lose.
"I figured if they're going to boo me, I'm going to love 'em," said Artest, who had seven points in the fourth quarter. "I love Detroit."
Artest was part of a reserve unit that outscored the Pistons' bench 60-5 and handed Detroit only its fourth home loss of the season.
"For us on the road, beating a team that has the second-best record in the league is a huge win for us," Kings coach Reggie Theus said.
Chauncey Billups had 28 points and 10 assists and Richard Hamilton added 24 points for the Pistons, who have lost two of their last three and were swept by the Kings in the season series.
Trailing 96-93, the Pistons got two good looks at a tying shot in the final minute but missed both attempts. Mike Bibby converted a running layup with 18 seconds left to seal the victory for the Kings, who ended a three-game road losing streak.
Sacramento's zone defense seemed to fluster Detroit, which frequently settled for shots as the clock was running down and finished the game 42 percent from the floor.
"We didn't move the ball," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "When things go bad we start to hold the ball and lock it up on one side."
The Pistons were 7-for-21 from the floor in the second quarter, when Sacramento outscored them 33-19 to take a 56-48 halftime lead. A 10-2 run midway through the third quarter got Detroit back in the game but the Kings never let the Pistons get ahead by more than three points in the final period.
Kevin Martin made a jump shot halfway through the fourth to give Sacramento the lead for good.
"We waited too long to start fighting," Billups said of the Pistons, who allowed the Kings 34 points in the paint.
Martin scored 24 points off the bench and Brad Miller added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Kings, who beat the Pistons 105-95 in Sacramento on Nov. 18. Bibby had 16 points.
Artest (elbow) and Bibby (thumb), both of whom returned from injuries on Wednesday, did not start the game.
Theus said he wanted to ease the usual starters back into the lineup.
"It's a confidence builder for our guys that are just getting back in the mix of things," Theus said. "We've still got a little ways to go.
"Mike still has to learn some of the plays and we've got to get Ron back in the mix of stuff."
Tayshaun Prince had 15 points and Antonio McDyess added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Detroit, which will begin a three-game road trip today.
NOTES: Artest played his second game at Detroit since the Nov. 19, 2004, brawl. He drew a loud chorus of boos when he entered the game late in the first quarter. ... Last night's crowd of 22,076 was the 203rd straight sellout at The Palace. ... Retired University of Michigan football Lloyd Carr sat at courtside.
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