AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 4 (Ticker) --
While Tracy McGrady
caught looking ahead, Chauncey Billups
and the Detroit Pistons
blew right past him into the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Billups scored 37 points as the Pistons built a 26-point lead in
the third quarter and routed the Orlando Magic, 108-93, in the
seventh game of their first-round series.
Rookie Tayshaun Prince
came off the bench to spark a
second-quarter surge and score 20 points for the Pistons, who
became just the seventh team in NBA history to erase a 3-1
deficit and win a playoff series.
In the process, Detroit prevented Orlando from becoming just the
third eighth seed to upset the top seed.
"A week ago today, we knew we were going to make history one way
or the other," Detroit coach Rick Carlisle said. "What the
guys decided was that it was an opportunity to make perhaps our
greatest adversity into our greatest opportunity and they
scored 22 points for the Pistons, who advanced
to the conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Game One is Tuesday night in Detroit.
"We are going from McGrady to (Allen) Iverson, who is another
very, very explosive scorer," Billups said.
Detroit and Philadelphia split four regular-season meetings,
with each team winning once on the other's court.
The Pistons made life miserable for McGrady, who finished with
21 points but made just 7-of-24 shots. McGrady, hounded often
by the aggressive Prince, had just 13 points through the first
"I'm so happy for Tayshaun. Time and time again throughout the
season when he has been called upon, he has stepped in and
guarded other teams' best players - Kobe (Bryant)
, McGrady and
even Iverson one time," Billups said. "He is a player who is a
rookie but doesn't play like one. He is very poised out there."
"The key tonight was our defense," NBA Defensive Player of the
Year Ben Wallace
said. "That's Piston basketball. The defensive
end is where we make our living."
The Magic have not won a postseason series since advancing to
the Eastern Conference finals in 1996. They have been
eliminated in the first round in their last five playoff
appearances, including three straight with McGrady, the league's
leading scorer in the regular season who averaged 33.5 points
in the first six games of the series.
McGrady has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs in
his six-year career. But when Orlando won three of the first
four games, McGrady talked prematurely about reaching the second
"This is the worst of all of (the playoff series losses),"
McGrady said. "Before, I felt like we had to play almost perfect
basketball to have a chance to win. This time, we were up 3-1
and it was right there for us to take. If you want to be a
great player in this league, when you lose a series, you have to
come back stronger."
While McGrady struggled, Drew Gooden
had 20 points and 17
rebounds for the Magic, who shot just 42 percent (33-of-79).
But it was not nearly enough against the emotionally soaring
"It just felt like the longer the series went on, the more their
other guys showed their hands. They seemed like they had so
many guys," Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "To try to put this
series on T-Mac would be wrong. I thought he did as much as a
great player could do."
But great players ultimately are recognized on how they perform
in critical games, and Sunday's disappearing act will
undoubtedly hurt McGrady's reputation. For McGrady, familiarity
may have resulted in his failure.
"They did a great job of finding out what I like to do and going
out and executing," McGrady said. "They did a great job of
taking us out of our offense and helping out on defense. In
Game Seven, we got down by so much and then we just tried to
force a lot of things and try to make something happen."
The Pistons instead turned McGrady's dream into a nightmare,
building a 26-point lead in the third quarter and winning a
seventh game of a series for just the second time in franchise
history. The first came in the 1990 Eastern Conference finals
against the Chicago Bulls.
Detroit won the final three games of the series by an average of
20.3 points. McGrady made just 18-of-52 shots in the last two.
Wallace had seven points, 12 rebounds and five blocks and
delivered the knockout blow in the third quarter, when he
blocked a shot by Drew Gooden, had a steal and converted a
three-point play on the other end to increase the lead to 76-55
with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
"We finally got back to playing the way we're supposed to play,"
Detroit shot 55 percent (40-of-73) and made 20-of-26 free
throws, including all 12 by Billups, who scored a career-high 40
points in Game Six Friday in Orlando.
McGrady cut Detroit's advantage to 60-51 on a 3-pointer with
10:37 left in the third quarter. But that would be the last time
Orlando would be within double digits.
The Pistons exploded for a 23-6 run that began with a 3-pointer
by Clifford Robinson
. Billups had six points during the run and
capped the spurt with a jumper that gave Detroit its biggest
lead, 83-57, with 1:31 left in the quarter.
The closest Orlando would get in the fourth quarter was 89-76 on
a basket by McGrady. Detroit responded with quick baskets by
Prince and Jon Barry
Rivers took McGrady out with three minutes left, and made sure
his players saw what they were missing.
"I told them to look around, to look at this crowd, to look at
the other bench, look at their celebrating," Rivers said. "We
have a future. For the first time I've been here as a coach,
it's the first time I can say, without praying that Grant Hill's
healthy, that things set up well for us."
Afterwards, Gooden hinted that the series seemed to be lost by
the time they took the floor.
"We should have envisioned this and it probably would have
helped us get us out of that comfort zone and play basketball
and just end this series," Gooden said.
The Pistons broke quickly from the gate, used a 15-4 run to take
a 20-8 lead with 5:28 left. Hamilton scored eight points in
that span, including jumpers that started and ended the run.
Gooden helped bring back the Magic, scoring nine points in the
final 2:53 of the quarter as Orlando moved within 27-22.
Orlando moved within 31-30 early in the second quarter on a
layup by McGrady. But Prince caught fire and sank a pair of
3-pointers in a 31-second span to push the lead back up to
Prince scored 14 points in the second quarter, making 3-of-4
shots from the arc. A collegiate star at Kentucky, Prince felt
right at home in the big-game atmosphere.
"A couple of people told me Game Sevens are like the NCAA
Tournament," Prince said. "You win or go home. That's exactly
how this felt."
Another 3-pointer by Prince increased the lead to 48-36. The
Pistons soon built their biggest lead of the half, 53-38, on
three free throws by Billups with 2:39 left.