AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 6 (Ticker) --
The Detroit Pistons got the
game from Mehmet Okur
that the Philadelphia 76ers were looking
for from Keith Van Horn
Okur scored 16 points, including six in a row midway through the
fourth quarter, as the Pistons got the jump in the Eastern
Conference semifinals with a 98-87 victory over the 76ers.
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The first playoff series between the franchises in 48 years was
expected to be a grind, with both teams relying heavily on their
All-Stars. But the Pistons contained three-time scoring
champion Allen Iverson
and the 76ers limited the impact of
two-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace
, leaving the
outcome to the role players.
The top-seeded Pistons won their fourth straight playoff game
with a huge lift from Okur, a rookie reserve 7-footer from
Turkey who burned the 76ers with his versatile offense. He was
averaging just 4.3 points in the postseason but eclipsed that in
a three-minute stretch of the final period.
"We are a great team and we have many pieces," said Okur, who
also pulled down six rebounds.
"I guess that saying he played well is an understatement,"
Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "I thought he was active on
both ends. He was active rebounding the ball. He had an
important blocked shot during a period when they were making a
run in the second half. He played with great energy."
While Okur was giving Detroit an offensive boost, Philadelphia
was getting next to nothing from Van Horn. He picked up two
quick fouls and took an early seat in a scoreless first half,
showed his frustration with a technical foul in the third
quarter and finished with just nine points on 2-of-7 shooting.
"It's not like I was only off the floor for 16 minutes," Van
Horn said. "It's more like sitting on the bench for 45 minutes.
Sometimes it's tough to get yourself back on. I just tried to
go out there and play hard and contribute in any way I can."
Van Horn averaged 15.9 points during the season, second on the
Sixers. He started slowly in the first round against New
Orleans but had 18 points and 18 rebounds in the Game Six
clincher four days ago.
"I think a lot of it was the way they officiated the game
tonight," he said. "They were calling a lot of stuff that they
normally let go. It's tough to judge a game when there's that
inconsistency and trying to figure out how they're going to call
the game, whether they're going to let the ticky-tacky stuff go
or they're going to let you push a little bit. It just varies
from game to game."
Van Horn was not the only starter who struggled for
fourth-seeded Philadelphia. Eric Snow had five points on 2-of-8
shooting and Kenny Thomas
added just two.
"We had starters that just didn't have their best game," Sixers
coach Larry Brown said. "It just put a lot of pressure on us."
scored 25 points and Chauncey Billups
before turning his left ankle for the Pistons, who appeared to
ride the momentum from winning the last three games of the first
round against Orlando.
"When you're off for a few days, you get too relaxed," Wallace
said. "This way, we stayed in our routine and stayed sharp. I
don't like to practice. I don't want to go out there and bang
on my teammates. I want to be out there doing it for real."
Wallace had 12 rebounds and four blocks but had just one point
and was limited by foul trouble.
Iverson had 27 points and eight assists for the Sixers. But he
did not have a basket in the fourth quarter as he was hounded by
Hamilton and Chucky Atkins
"Guys have their heads up," Iverson said. "We're not going to
let one game stop us. Our goal is to come in here and steal a
game. We tried to do it in the first one and we couldn't."
Game Two is Thursday in Detroit.
In a game that featured an 18-minute delay due to a power outage
in the first quarter that darkened The Palace of Auburn Hills,
Okur shot the lights out. He was 7-of-7 from the field, doing
most of his damage in the fourth quarter.
Okur opened the period with a dunk, giving Detroit a 75-66 lead.
Philadelphia fought back within 77-74 and looked poised to
pounce when Billups limped to the bench with his twisted ankle,
but Okur had other ideas.
After making a free throw, he beat the shot clock with a
3-pointer, then trailed a fast break and took a touch pass from
Wallace for a dunk. A driving layup by Atkins made it 85-74
with 6:14 to go. Philadelphia got no closer than six points
thereafter. "We don't have time to celebrate this game," Okur
said. "We know it is going to be a long series. For example,
last year, I wasn't here I followed my friends here and they won
the first game (of the second round round vs. Boston) and they
lost the series. We don't want to do that."
"He plays well against us," Sixers guard Aaron McKie
"They've got that kind of team where he's popping, Cliff
Robinson is popping and those guys made their shots tonight."
Robinson scored 11 points for the Pistons, who shot 45 percent
(32-of-71), making eight 3-pointers. Derrick Coleman
points and Greg Buckner
added 11 for the Sixers, who shot 47
The Pistons committed just 12 turnovers while forcing 17. As a
result, the Sixers could not get their transition game in gear
and often had to work out of half-court sets.
"Their half-court offense is still coming together," Pistons
forward Michael Curry
said. "Allen made a couple that helped us
out. Hopefully it is something that we are doing to force
A jumper by Iverson gave Philadelphia a 25-24 lead early in the
second quarter, but Detroit answered with nine straight points
to take the lead for good. Okur capped the run with a pair of
"I just thought that we weren't poised in the first half," Brown
said. "We gave those guys a lot of confidence early in
allowing those guys to trap us and get us out of our sets.
We've got to get back to playing our basketball and that's doing
what they did to us."
Just over a minute after Van Horn's technical foul, Billups was
fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws, giving the
Pistons their largest lead at 63-50 with 6:16 left in the third
quarter. Iverson answered with an acrobatic three-point play,
and the Sixers inched within five points by the end of the