AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Chauncey Billups squared up, and the roar began before the shot even left his hand, finally reaching a crescendo when the ball dropped through the net.
“It’s not like that everywhere,” Billups said.
Billups enjoyed a delightful homecoming Wednesday night, scoring 16 points in his first game back with the Pistons and helping Detroit to a 113-102 victory over the Washington Wizards. Greg Monroe had 24 points and 16 rebounds, and Josh Smith added 19 points for the new-look Pistons, who won their first game under new coach Maurice Cheeks.
Detroit signed Smith and acquired Brandon Jennings in a trade this offseason, but it was Billups who fans seemed most excited about. He was in the starting lineup and drew a huge cheer when he was the last player introduced in the pregame ceremony. Billups was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals with the Pistons, but he was traded four years later in a deal Detroit fans still look back on with regret. The Pistons signed him back this offseason.
Detroit trailed 7-3 when Billups connected on that 3-pointer from the right wing — when the crowd started cheering in anticipation well before the shot went in. Billups added a couple more big shots in the fourth quarter, and by the time the game was over, fans were chanting “MVP!” for him.
“It felt good, but that was a little crazy,” the 37-year-old Billups said.
Andre Drummond added 12 points and eight rebounds for Detroit, which is hoping to snap a streak of four straight seasons without reaching the playoffs.
Trevor Ariza scored 28 points for the Wizards, who were outscored 56-28 in the paint. Washington’s John Wall had 20 points and 11 assists, but went 8 of 21 from the field.
“We got beat everywhere tonight,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “Everyone in this league knows that you can’t let Chauncey Billups shoot 3-pointers. You have to make him put the ball on the floor and beat you that way. So what did we do? We stood there and watched him shoot open 3s.”
Detroit led 89-85 in the fourth when Kyle Singler pushed the lead to seven with a driving three-point play. Billups later made back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 100-87.
“We just didn’t do anything defensively all night. We were just watching them,” Wall said. “You don’t want to get behind in the other team’s home opener, because everyone is excited and you just let the crowd get all ramped up. We got close a couple times, but Chauncey or Josh would hit a shot and the crowd would go crazy again. That’s on us.”
Washington is hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but it may be awhile before the Wizards or Pistons really have a sense of how improved they are. Washington was without first-round draft pick Otto Porter, who has been out with a right hip flexor problem. Center Marcin Gortat, acquired from Phoenix in a trade last week, did not start and played only 17 minutes.
Jennings was out for Detroit with an impacted wisdom tooth and a hairline fracture on the mandible at the base of the tooth. Guard Rodney Stuckey also is injured. He broke his right thumb after catching it in a car door and needed surgery.
Smith, Detroit’s prized free agent signing, had a quiet first half, scoring five points and taking three of his four shots from beyond the arc. Drummond, however, was a force inside. His highlights included two emphatic putback dunks, the second of which gave the Pistons a 45-33 lead. It was 55-43 at halftime.
Smith went right to work in the second half with a dunk, and after the Wizards cut the lead to six, Smith’s 3-pointer made it 68-59. Smith also was active around the basket on defense, blocking what looked like a dunk attempt by Gortat late in the third quarter.
“It was picture perfect for me,” Smith said. “Just being able to get out there and see the fans cheering the basketball team on, staying engaged for the whole game.”
Although there were pockets of empty seats in the upper level, there was more energy at the Palace than on almost any night last season. Pistons owner Tom Gores was seated courtside, and for one game at least, his revamped team gave fans reason for optimism.
“It feels like old times,” Billups said. “The energy in this building sounded familiar. I hadn’t seen that in a while around here. It felt really good.”
NOTES: The Wizards went 7-34 on the road last season. … Gigi Datome, an Italian star who joined the Pistons this offseason, played only the last 19 seconds. … Detroit outscored Washington 32-8 in the paint in the first half.
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