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Philadelphia 93, Detroit 83
Sixers Smack Pistons, Notch First Win of Series

Iverson continues his climb up Sixer record books beginning October 28 vs. Miami.
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PHILADELPHIA, May 10 (Ticker) -- Kenny Thomas gave the Philadelphia 76ers their own version of Ben Wallace.

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Thomas had 10 points and 14 rebounds as the 76ers controlled both backboards and got back into their Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 93-83 Game Three victory over the Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons had their five-game playoff winning streak snapped but still hold a 2-1 lead in the series. Game Four is here Sunday night.

Playing in his first postseason, Thomas is giving the smallish 76ers a big boost. He had 15 points and 19 rebounds in Thursday's overtime loss and followed with another double-double - in the first half.

"They came out a little dead tonight, and they weren't really into the game," Thomas said. "That was great for us because we just took our game to another level."

Despite the presence of Wallace, the NBA's leading rebounder, the Pistons are one of the NBA's worst rebounding teams. That showed in the first half, when they were beaten on the boards, 30-13.

"We knew this series was going to be about rebounding for us and for them," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "They got off to a great start on the boards."

The 6-8 Thomas set the pace with his energy and his teammates followed. Philadelphia had 12 offensive rebounds while Detroit managed just seven defensive boards. That led to 21 second-chance points for the 76ers, who opened a 48-37 halftime lead.

"We came out real aggressive in the first half as far as rebounding and playing defense," Thomas said. "We were trying to set the tempo for the game. Myself, I was ready to go. I felt like we needed a win bad. If somebody is playing hard on this team, everybody else will follow. We just came out, picked it up and got it going in the first quarter."

"At halftime, they had nearly half their points on second shots," Carlisle said. "That's not a good sign for us, so we're going to have to match their level of aggression on the boards."

Thomas may have been too energetic. With just under four minutes left in the third quarter, he suffered a strained right quadriceps trying to track down a rebound. He limped to the locker room and did not return.

By that time, the Sixers had a 64-44 lead. They maintained a double-digit lead thereafter as Allen Iverson and Keith Van Horn paced the offense.

While Thomas was a terror, Wallace appeared waylaid. He had just two defensive boards and six total, the first time in 20 career playoff games he did not reach double figures in rebounds.

"We didn't help Ben on the boards at all tonight," Pistons swingman Tayshaun Prince said. "He was down there fighting, fighting, fighting, and we didn't help him at all."

Iverson had 25 points and 11 assists and Van Horn broke out of a slump with 17 points for the Sixers, who held a 48-30 advantage on the backboards and had 27 second-chance points.

"That's what I'm trying to concentrate on," Thomas said. "If I go to the boards and get an offensive rebound, then I'm going to get some put-backs."

Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and Game Two hero Prince added 17 for the Pistons, who made 10-of-21 3-pointers but shot just 36 percent (26-of-72) overall.

With Game Four 24 hours away, health is an issue for both teams. Pistons guard Chauncey Billups sat out his second straight game with a sprained ankle and is questionable for Sunday's game. In addition to Thomas, Sixers Derrick Coleman and Eric Snow went to the locker room early for treatment of nagging injuries.

"I'm a little nervous about that, with Kenny's situation and Eric's situation," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "Some guys, I'm not concerned with. I hope we don't party." "It's a nagging bruise I had earlier in the season," Thomas said. "It was the same thing when I got hit (tonight). If I get hit again, it might get irritated. It's nothing serious. I'll be all right for tomorrow."

If Thomas cannot go, the Sixers will need another solid game from Tyrone Hill, who had nine points and six boards in an energetic 22-minute outing.

"That was what we need from Tyrone, to come in there and mix it up," Coleman said. "He's always been that type of player. He's a blue-collar worker. We need that with Kenny going out; he stepped up and played well."

Thomas swept seven boards in the first quarter, when Philadelphia had 13 second-chance points and opened a 23-19 lead. Iverson scored six straight Sixers' points early in the second quarter to make it 31-22, and Thomas had a pair of jumpers in a 7-0 burst that built the margin to 44-30 with 3:57 to go.

Van Horn scored 11 points in the third quarter. His third 3-pointer of the period came right after Thomas got hurt and gave the Sixers their largest lead at 67-45.

"I was happy with the way he played," Brown said. "He made some shots, he didn't get into serious foul trouble, and that really helped us."

Iverson scored 11 points in the final period to repel a half-hearted rally by the Pistons, who never got within single digits.

"If we get this next game, we have a shot in Detroit," Iverson said. "We do feel confident about being able to win there, but it's unfair to even being thinking about going back to Detroit. We need to concentrate on winning this game tomorrow. We win this game and we put ourselves in a better (position)."

Coleman had 15 points and eight boards and Snow scored 11 points for Philadelphia, which shot 44 percent (32-of-72) and made 26-of-29 free throws.

Chucky Atkins again started for Billups and scored 13 points. Rookie Mehmet Okur had 10 rebounds.



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