Detroit 95, Chicago 69

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 5 (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons turned determination into a dominant performance, reminiscent of some of their wins en route to the 2004 NBA title.

Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton each scored 20 points, leading Detroit to a 95-69 rout over the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday night.

The Pistons were aggressive on defense, clogging passing lanes with their feet and hands. They caused problems at the other end of the court, too, playing unselfishly to help five players score in double figures.

"In the championship year, we were locked in like this every night,'' Billups said. "I can remember it. It's been a while, but defensively, we were like this almost every night.''

Chicago made less than one-third of its shots and turned the ball over 22 times, startling anyone who watched its first-round sweep over the defending champion Miami Heat.

It looked familiar to Ben Wallace because he helped the Pistons put together games like that for six seasons before leaving as a free agent last summer.

"I wasn't surprised with their energy at all,'' Wallace said. "They came out and attacked us early. It got us on our heels and we never recovered. We were a step slow.''

Ben Gordon, slowed by foul trouble, was held to seven points on 2-of-9 shooting after scoring 24 in each game against Miami in the first round. Luol Deng scored 18 and Kirk Hinrich had 15 for the Bulls.

Wallace had nine points, eight rebounds and a block.

"If there was a positive tonight, it was his play,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "His effort just got left by the wayside by the way everyone else played.''

Before the game, Pistons coach Flip Saunders said his team is totally different than it was at this time last year because of a renewed focus.

Detroit is still kicking itself for losing to Miami in the conference finals last year - after winning the title in 2004 and coming just short of repeating - and vowed to show how determined it is to at least get back to the NBA finals.

The Eastern Conference's top-seeded team will have a shot if it keeps playing this way.

But the Pistons aren't getting cocky yet.

"It's just Game 1,'' Billups said. "We played at home. We haven't done anything yet.

"I guarantee there won't be any more games like that.''

The Pistons will host Game 2 on Monday night.

Detroit took control with a 13-2 run midway through the first quarter, but didn't put Chicago away until the opening minutes of the fourth.

Three Pistons made 3-pointers in the first 2 minutes of the final quarter for a 19-point lead before going ahead 86-60 a few minutes later.

Detroit's Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince each finished with 13 points and reserve Jason Maxiell added a career playoff-high 12.

The Pistons were more impressive Saturday than they were in any of the four wins over the Orlando Magic in the first round, picking up their play in their sixth straight second-round appearance.

Chicago, meanwhile, looked like a team that just won a playoff series for the first time since Michael Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth title in 1998.

"We probably needed this as a learning experience,'' Skiles said.

Billups was assertive from the start, instead of deferring to teammates as he usually does early in games.

He went right at Gordon on Detroit's first three possessions, making two shots and a free throw. Gordon was called for his second foul 2 1/2 minutes into the game and didn't return until early in the second quarter, perhaps disrupting his rhythm from the last series.

Chris Duhon replaced Gordon, and was attacked immediately by Billups, whose 3-pointer gave him eight points less than 4 minutes into the game.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and set the tone,'' Billups said.

After Chicago took its only lead, the Pistons went on their big run to take a 20-11 lead midway through the first quarter.

Billups scored 12 points in the opening quarter, helping Detroit take a 29-23 lead.

He left the game in the final seconds of the first quarter with two fouls. By the time he returned late in the second, Chicago was shooting free throws down 16 in part because Detroit reserves scored 10 in the quarter.

"The bench was great,'' Billups said.

Chicago's reserves had a rough night, missing all 12 of their shots through three quarters and finishing 3-of-30. Andres Nocioni was held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting after averaging 12 points against the Heat.

Notes: Detroit and Chicago met in four straight postseasons, with the Pistons winning the first three before Jordan and Co. broke through in 1991 en route to their first of six titles. ... Chicago won the season series 3-1. ... Since 2003, four Pistons are in the top five among playoff games played and the fifth is Ben Wallace. Hamilton and Ben Wallace played in their 88th postseason game in five years, leading the list. ... Nearly 20 reporters were huddled around Ben Wallace before the game, and he joked about the house he still owns in suburban Detroit. "I'll cut you a good deal,'' he said.


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