MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Bucks finally built a lead so big even they couldn't blow it. Barely.
"We like to give our fans their money's worth," Andrew Bogut deadpanned.
Michael Redd scored 27 points and Bogut had 14 points and 14 rebounds as the Bucks held on despite nearly squandering a 21-point lead in a 103-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons last night.
"We hung in there, made our free throws and got it done," said Redd, who was 7-for-11 from the field and 12-for-14 from the foul line.
The Pistons, who had won 10 in a row before the All-Star break, are suddenly reeling after two consecutive losses despite still maintaining control of the Central Division at 39-15, 19 games ahead of cellar-dwelling Milwaukee.
"I think everybody knows we're on the other side now, going downhill," said Chauncey Billups, who had a season-high 34 points. "We've got to start fine tuning. These are games we can't let get away. Teams we're supposed to beat, we have to beat."
They almost did despite trailing by 21 after Mo Williams' jumper midway through the third quarter.
"We've kind of set the bar right now as a team that will let you back in, and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
Milwaukee, which blew a 17-point second-half lead to the Knicks on Feb. 9, avoided extending a four-game losing skid and snapped a streak of four straight losses to the Pistons.
"We needed to win, for sure," Krystkowiak said. "We needed to get some of that taste out of our mouth. We had a rough stretch right before the break, it's tough to sit through a break having gone through that."
Rasheed Wallace nearly caused them more misery even though the Pistons were down 16 with 4:22 left.
Wallace finished with 21 points, hitting four 3s in the final 2:20, only to have Milwaukee hit 10 of 12 free throws in the span to hold on.
Trailing 93-81, Wallace hit three 3s and Billups added two free throws to make it 95-92 with 1:12 to play.
"He got hot," said Richard Hamilton, who finished with 11 points.
"I was trying to drive and bring two guys with me and Sheed was on the fade and I got him three times in a row, and he made three 3s in a row."
Bogut hit a free throw and Williams, who finished with 11 points, added two more after a defensive stop to push the lead back to six before Wallace hit another 3 with 22 seconds remaining to cut it to 98-95.
After Redd hit two more free throws, Billups answered with a layup and Redd was fouled again. He made one of two to make it 101-97 and Billups missed a wide-open 3.
Williams grabbed the rebound and began falling out of bounds.
"The first thing I could think about was, call a timeout," Williams said.
But the Bucks didn't have any, and Billups hit the ensuing technical free throw with 7.6 seconds to play to make it 101-98.