AUBURN HILLS, Mich, May 14 (Ticker) -- Chucky Atkins
Detroit Pistons past the Philadelphia 76ers once again.
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Atkins flipped in a running layup in the final second to give
the Pistons a 78-77 victory over the 76ers and a 3-2 lead in
their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Detroit won its sixth straight postseason home game, including
the last two from Philadelphia with last-second heroics. It can
reach the conference finals for the first time in 13 years with
a win on Friday at Philadelphia.
But the top-seeded Pistons would be staring at elimination if
not for Atkins, who rescued them with a great shot that foiled a
gritty comeback by the fourth-seeded 76ers.
"Basically, a miracle happened," Pistons rookie swingman
Detroit never trailed until the waning moments, when
Philadelphia's Eric Snow
drained a three-pointer for a 77-76 lead
with 9.4 seconds to play.
The Pistons called their final timeout and drew up a play that
was disrupted when the Sixers used an extra foul they had on
Atkins with 3.7 seconds remaining. Both teams looked
disorganized before the ensuing inbounds pass.
"We knew they had a foul to give, so we expected that it was
going to come off a reload," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said.
"I wanted to change who inbounded the ball and have Rip (Richard
do it, but we still knew that they make inbounds
passes tougher than any team in the league."
Hamilton passed to a cutting Atkins, who had gotten a step on
. He dribbled to the right baseline and lofted a
shot that caught the rim, hit the backboard and was about to
drop through when it was goaltended by Derrick Coleman
"Atkins took the ball like a receiver on a pass pattern and made
a great play," Carlisle said.
"Just please go in, that's all I was saying," Atkins said. "The
guys kind of tease me all the time because they say every time
I go in and throw a runner, it gets blocked. And I told them
all the time in practice that it was going to win a game for us
one time this year. I didn't know it was going to be a playoff
With no timeouts, the Sixers were reduced to a 60-footer by
that was not close. For the second time in as
many games at The Palace of Auburn Hills, they saw a win slip
away in the final seconds.
"I really don't think you can put it into words. I think
everyone is just numb now," Sixers forward Keith Van Horn
"Especially with the way we fought back, that's just the best
way to put it -- I'm just numb."
In Detroit's Game 2 victory, Prince made the tying basket in
the final seconds, then scored seven points in overtime. Prince
had a similar basket in this game, giving the Pistons a 76-74
lead with 16 seconds to go.
Atkins scored 17 points as he continued to excel in place of the
injured Chauncey Billups
, who again sat out with a sprained
"I can't be happier for Chucky right now with him being able to
step in and play at this level on a stage like this," said
Billups, who replaced Atkins as a starter after signing as a
free agent. "It's unbelievable. I'm very happy for him."
"It's been a different year for me," Atkins said. "I haven't
played as much as I wanted to play this year. I do it in the
regular season, but now, unfortunately with the injury to
Chauncey, I'm going to get more than my share of minutes and I'm
just trying to show the people in the city, our fans and other
people around the league that I deserve to be on a 50-win team
and that I can play basketball."
Hamilton scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half for the
Pistons, who relied on their league-leading defense. They held
the Sixers to less than 37 percent (29-of-79) shooting and
blocked 11 shots -- four by rookie Mehmet Okur
and three each by
Prince and Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace
Philadelphia's prime culprits were Iverson and Van Horn,
its top scorers during the regular season. Iverson, who had a
solid all-around game with 14 points, nine assists and eight
rebounds, made just 5-of-25 shots. Van Horn again encountered
foul trouble and made just 2-of-10 shots.
"This game is one of my worst games in the playoffs," Iverson
said. "I struggled shooting. I felt that my effort was there
and I gave all the energy I had, I just didn't make shots
tonight. I missed a lot of shots that I'm accustomed to
Coleman had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Snow scored 16
points for the Sixers, who hung around with a 51-37 rebounding
"I don't even know how we stayed in the game with the way Keith
and Allen shot," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "We kept
defending and Derrick was phenomenal. A lot of guys stepped up
to give us a chance to win. This one is really going to sting."
The Sixers trailed, 69-60, after a layup by Detroit's Jon Barry
with 7:42 remaining. Iverson made a three-pointer and, after a dunk
by Okur, Van Horn threw in a hook and Coleman drained a
three-pointer to make it 71-68 with 4:36 left.
Okur responded with a three-pointer, but two free throws each by
Coleman and Snow cut the deficit to 74-72 with 1:22 to go.
Wallace broke up a pass by a driving Iverson but on the next
possession could not jump out fast enough to stop his running
bank shot that tied it with 34 seconds to play.
After a timeout moved Detroit to the frontcourt, Prince took
steps before making the inbounds pass, a violation that was not
called. He ended up with the ball and backed down Aaron McKie
for a nifty spinning shot that reclaimed the lead for the
"They walked on the sidelines with 16 seconds left, so it should
have never even gotten that far," Brown said. "You can't walk
when you inbound on the side."
Snow had made just seven three-pointers during the season and was
0-of-9 from the arc in the playoffs before his clutch shot.
"They leave me a lot, especially when Allen and the guys make
plays to the basket, and Allen passed a backdoor cut to DC and I
just try to go to the open space," Snow said. "I don't pretty
much look to shoot three-pointers, but I just happened to be open
and just be out there."
"That wasn't the play -- to be honest, we were looking to get to
the line," Brown said. "But Allen penetrated and pitched and
Eric made a huge shot."
Prince scored 13 points and Wallace pulled down 17 rebounds for
the Pistons. McKie scored 10 points and Van Horn grabbed nine
boards for the Sixers.
With Hamilton and Atkins making shots and Iverson and Van Horn
missing, Detroit took control early. The Pistons made five
three-pointers in the first quarter, racing to a 20-6 lead before
settling for a 30-23 advantage.
I kind of put us in a bind early in the game," said Iverson, who
missed 11 of his first 12 shots. "I rushed it more than I
usually do and just moving so fast out there, being so anxious."
An ugly second quarter ended with Hamilton's 22-footer that
provided a 45-36 bulge. Detroit rebuilt its lead to 12 points in
the third quarter before taking a 63-57 advantage to the final