The Detroit Pistons are starting to see the benefits of the painful rebuilding process that started when they traded Chauncey Billups to Denver.

Charlie Villanueva scored 27 points, and Rodney Stuckey had 25 to help the banged-up Pistons hold on for a 101-99 victory over the visiting Nuggets last night.

Billups missed a layup in the final seconds, allowing the Pistons to run their winning streak to a season-best four games.

"I got what I wanted," Billups said. "But I tried to get the foul too much."

Detroit dealt Billups to Denver 13 months ago for Allen Iverson and his expiring contract to create salary-cap space - which the Pistons used to sign Ben Gordon and Villanueva - and to speed Stuckey's development.

"I know it was tough to let Chauncey go because he was a winner who the fans loved, but we really have the pieces to be good this season and the years to come," Villanueva said. "I just can't wait to see how good we will be when we start getting some of guys back."

Detroit was without Richard Hamilton (right ankle), Gordon (left ankle), Will Bynum (ankles) and Tayshaun Prince (back).

"It's very rewarding to watch our guys compete," first-year coach John Kuester said. "We're starting to learn how to win and finish games. That's huge."

Carmelo Anthony scored 40 points for Denver, Billups had 21 and reserve J.R. Smith added 14. The Northwest Division-leading Nuggets have lost consecutive games for just the second time this season after winning four straight and eight of 10.

Denver's Kenyon Martin (dislocated left pinkie) missed his second straight game.

In another game:

* At Washington, Rajon Rondo's driving dunk with a minute remaining broke a tie and led the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics to their ninth straight victory, 104-102 over the Wizards. Rondo had 21 points and 11 assists, and Ray Allen had 18 and became the 32nd NBA player to score 20,000 points.

In related news, the Wizards will honor late owner Abe Pollin by wearing a patch on their jerseys for the rest of the season.