Prince leads Pistons to 3-0 series lead
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) – Tayshaun Prince had 23 points to lead all
Detroit starters in double figures, as the Pistons moved to the brink of
sweeping their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with a 93-77 victory
over the Orlando Magic.
Chauncey Billups tallied 21 points, while Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace
each had 15 for Detroit, which gained a 3-0 lead in the series with another
balanced attack. The top-seeded Pistons have had all five starters in double
figures in every game of this series. Richard Hamilton had an off night on
Thursday, ending with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Prince did the damage by scoring nine points in both the second and third
quarters, when Detroit pulled away.
The Pistons went 8-of-13 from three-point range with Wallace making all three
of his long distance shots.
Jameer Nelson had 27 points for Orlando, which is in danger of losing its
sixth straight postseason set. The last time the Magic won a playoff series
was in 1996 when they were swept by Chicago in the East finals.
Dwight Howard had 11 points and 12 rebounds in a losing cause and Darko
Milicic also scored 11 for the Magic.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday afternoon in Orlando.
The game featured five technical fouls, including four from Detroit.
“We are a grind it out team and when we have the opportunity to get a little
bit dirty and to get physical, that’s when we are at our best,” Pistons coach
Flip Saunders said. “A lot of people up in Detroit are saying we didn’t have a
killer instinct, and our guys came down here and have been focused just with
the idea of going out and playing how we want to play. I think the biggest
thing for us is that tonight we dictated how the game was played; it was
played pretty much at our pace.”
The Magic unraveled at the end of the half. Prince nailed a jumper from the
right corner with 2.3 seconds left, moving the visitors to a 45-42 edge. He
then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and sent the ball to Billups, who drilled
a three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Pistons remained in front the rest of the way. A tip-in by Webber extended
the lead to 66-56 with under four minutes left in the third and Prince
followed with a layup.
Nelson’s three-pointer had the Magic within 68-61, but Prince responded by
draining a shot from beyond the arc with 1.1 seconds left in the third.
“That was huge for us, hitting shots and getting turnovers,” Prince said.
“Those are big things that can really change the tempo of the game, momentum
swingers. The one right before half time and the one after the third quarter,
those are the big plays for us to keep control of the game.”
Milicic’s free throw brought Orlando within 79-70 midway through the fourth,
but Webber then drained a hook shot and then hit 1-of-2 foul shots with 5:31
left for an 82-70 margin. Detroit led by double digits the rest of the way.
“We came out with emotion. They weathered the storm,” said Orlando forward
Grant Hill, who ended with eight points on 2-of-12 shooting. “And once the
emotion wears off, you’ve got to play. They’ve been in those types of games as
a unit and we haven’t. So once the emotion kind of wore off, you’ve got to
play basketball. They outplayed us, simple as that.”
The Magic scored the first eight points, but the emotionally-fired Pistons
rallied. Billups’ three brought Detroit within 13-10.
Wallace was whistled for a technical foul with 6:13 left in the quarter, but
the Pistons kept their composure for the most part. Billups hit two free
throws in the final seconds of the first, tying the game at 23, as Detroit
ended the period on an 11-5 spurt.
Antonio McDyess’ bucket moved Detroit to a 35-28 lead, and Wallace was sent to
the bench with his third foul with 6:13 left in the half, with the Pistons
ahead by a point.
Before Thursday, the Pistons had lost three straight Game 3s in the
postseason…Orlando’s last home victory in the postseason was on April 27,
2003 against the Pistons…The Pistons have not lost in the opening round of
the postseason since 2000, when they were swept by Miami…Hedo Turkoglu had
10 points for Orlando, while McDyess had 11 rebounds for the Pistons.