AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 3 (Ticker) --Richard Hamilton delivered
an early knockout blow to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Hamilton scored a playoff career-high 40 points as the Detroit
Pistons coasted to a 122-93 rout of the Bucks to close out their
Eastern Conference first-round series in five games.
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Rasheed Wallace added 22 points and Chauncey Billups 17 for the
top-seeded Pistons, who asserted themselves from the outset en
route to ending a series which was expected to be a mismatch.
"We came out extremely aggressive," Billups said. "We wanted to
deliver the first punch and see if they were going to keep
fighting and they did, true to form, like they did all series,
but we were just a little too hot for them tonight."
Battling a left ankle injury that he suffered in the fourth
quarter of Game 1, Hamilton entered the contest shooting just
34 percent (20-of-58) from the floor. He also had struggled on
the defensive end against Michael Redd.
But Hamilton had it going from the start Wednesday as he made
5-of-6 shots and scored 15 points in the first quarter, helping
the Pistons build a 39-23 lead which eventually got bigger and
"That's not what we wanted to start off the game," Redd said.
"We definitely started sluggish, down, and in this game you have
to play like a madman against a great team. We didn't do that
tonight and they made us pay for it."
Hamilton scored nine more points in the second quarter that
ended with the Pistons holding a 62-49 advantage.
"Rip was great," Billups said. "It's been a long time coming.
We needed him to come through like that. He was huge. He got it
cooking early. Once he got it cooking, everybody else kind of
fell back, we got him the ball where he needed it at, he stayed
aggressive. Like I told him, 'welcome back.'"
In the third quarter, Hamilton kept it going by making 6-of-7
shots and scoring 16 points. He finished 15-of-23 overall from
the floor before departing to a standing ovation early in the
Hamilton credited strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander
for loosening the tape job on his ankle.
"He said he didn't really want to have me restrained," said
Hamilton, whose previous playoff career high was 33 points. "He
wanted me to just go out there and play and don't worry about it
and just have confidence in it. I think that really gave me a
whole lot of confidence for me to go out there and make plays
and make moves and do stuff that I was usually doing."
The Pistons held the Bucks scoreless for more than five minutes
during a 16-0 run in the third quarter that opened an 80-51
advantage. Tayshaun Prince capped the burst with two free
throws at the 5:03 mark.
Prince scored 12 points and Antonio McDyess 11 for Detroit,
which will meet either fourth-seeded Cleveland or fifth-seeded
Washington in the conference semifinals.
Detroit shot 54 percent (40-of-74) and held a commanding 48-29
rebounding advantage. The unselfish Pistons had 30 assists on
their 40 baskets.
"It's good. It's a good team win," Wallace said. "We knew we
were going to get it, it was just a matter of going out there
and doing it."
Redd scored 23 points and Dan Gadzuric 13 for the eighth-seeded
Bucks, who were overmatched with their backs against the wall
after playing well in both Game 3 and Game 4.
"What I take away from this series, we competed well in the
games in Milwaukee," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. "Nobody
thought we'd even win a game. We won one handily, and in Game 4, with two minutes to go we could have won that game.
We're one of the youngest teams in the league and we have
room to grow."