BOSTON, NOV. 30 -- Larry Bird, his time slipping away, yearns for one more chance at them. Michael Jordan, his patience thinning, aches for another crack. The Portland Trail Blazers seem determined not to lose a game until they can have their rematch.

The Detroit Pistons merely shrug and run the pick-and-roll again. Or tighten down at the defensive end. Or sink about six three-pointers in a row. Whatever needs to be done.

Their maddening consistency is what separates the two-time defending NBA champion Pistons, who will be at Capital Centre tonight at 7:30 to face the Bullets, from the rest of the league. Their story is getting old. So are most of their key players. Yet they show no signs of slowing down toward a third straight title that would solidify their place as one of the all-time great teams.

Instead, Detroit is off to its best start in franchise history. Only a couple of losses on their West Coast trip have blemished their 13-2 record, second in the league to Portland. Since Boston (12-2) has yet to travel beyond Chicago, it stands to reason that the Pistons have the early upper hand for home-court advantage coming out of the Eastern Conference.

"We don't worry about what's down the road," Pistons Coach Chuck Daly said. "In our case, if we don't, we get annihilated, because every team plays us so hard. Almost every team plays their best game against us or close to it because they know if they don't, they could be in for a very tough night.

"Consequently, our guys now understand that. For the most part, we adjust to that."

The Pistons made few changes in the offseason. The biggest was signing free agent center Tree Rollins, who hardly plays. The core of the group is the same as it's been the last several seasons:

The guard trio of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson. They are currently playing their sixth year together -- only Dallas's Derek Harper, Rolando Blackman and Brad Davis can say the same -- and they know what's going to happen. Whoever's hot gets the ball and stays in the game.

The twin-headed small forward, Dennis Rodman-Mark Aguirre. Rodman has been bothered by a sprained ankle, but is still playing and grabbing rebounds. Aguirre is shooting well, and coming off the bench again after starting early in the season.

The big men -- Bill Laimbeer, James Edwards, John Salley -- from which Detroit gets low-post scoring (Edwards), three-point shooting, rebounding and persona (Laimbeer) and blocked shots and defense (Salley).

And, of course, the Pistons are leading the league in defense again, allowing 94 points per game on 44 percent shooting. They've held 11 of 15 opponents under 100 points. And they will have most of their long-distance traveling done by the end of the month.

Step right up. They're standing there.

"We know they're ahead of us," said Jordan, whose Bulls are already four games behind Detroit. "We've got to play our best, do what we can, and whenever we play them, we've got to show improvement and see if we can have any success against them."