Detroit 98, Philadelphia 81

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 29 (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons might have won Game 5 more than an hour before it started.

Music wasn't rattling the locker room. Eyes were locked on the big-screen TV showing the previous matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Chauncey Billups scored 21 points, Richard Hamilton had 20 and Rasheed Wallace added 19 to lift Detroit to a 98-81 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday night and a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.

"We knew Game 6 was going to be an elimination game either way it went," Billups said. "We wanted to be on the upper hand of that."

The Pistons lead in the series for the first time after being the first team to win consecutive games.

"We didn't want to let an opportunity slip away," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.

If the Pistons win Game 6 on Thursday night in Philadelphia or Game 7 at home, they will advance in the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.

"I'll be back," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said to hecklers as the final seconds ticked off the clock. "I know you don't believe me."

The third-seeded Orlando Magic, who eliminated Toronto on Monday night, await the winner in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Pistons insist they're not looking ahead because they expect to see the Sixers' best.

"I don't think they're going to lay down at all," Wallace said. "It's do or die for them. It's not going to be a cake walk."

Andre Iguodala scored a career playoff-high 21 points, finally putting together a night that resembled his play in the regular season.

"We hope that can propel him into the next game," Cheeks said. "He's been struggling all series."

Iguodala didn't have much help.

None of his teammates reached double figures until Andre Miller in the third quarter, but that was after the point guard missed nine shots in a row in the first half when the game was relatively close.

"We tried to pressure up on him and Rasheed had some blocks," Saunders said.

Billups, Wallace and Hamilton combined for 58 points through three quarters, outscoring the Sixers until Rodney Carney made a 3 to end the quarter, cutting their deficit to 20 points.

Billups had a series high in points (21) and assists (12). Wallace had six blocks, one short of the playoff franchise record he matched in Game 1.

Jason Maxiell had a career playoff-high 11 rebounds, starting for the second time for Antonio McDyess, who is playing with a broken nose.

Detroit's Tayshaun Prince finished with 17 points, giving the balanced team a fourth option offensively.

Miller finished with 13 points and reserve Louis Williams scored 16.

Billups seized control from the start, scoring 14 points and adding five assists as Detroit took a 35-21 lead after the first quarter.

"Chauncey, in the beginning of the game, took over the game," Cheeks said.

The game was essentially over at that point. Detroit led 54-42 at halftime and 79-59 after three quarters.

"We all got to see the Detroit Pistons at their best," Philadelphia's Willie Green said. "That's why they are one of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference."

Notes: Philadelphia's Maurice Cheeks finished fourth in coach of the year voting, receiving five first-place votes to trail New Orleans' Byron Scott, Boston's Doc Rivers and Houston's Rick Adelman. "It's great," Cheeks said. "Who would've thought it? To go from where we were to where we are, it's an honor to be mentioned." Saunders received one third-place vote, tying Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni. ... Saunders downplayed comments made by ex-Piston Chris Webber on TNT as an analyst Sunday night. "No (dis)respect to Flip, but it doesn't matter what Flip says," Webber said at halftime of Game 4. "They come from a coach like Larry Brown, they look at him like he's the epitome of basketball, and they feel like they can wait until the last game or the championship, and they won't lose. They are really nonchalant, and that's why I felt we lost last year." Saunders responded before Game 4: "I talked at halftime, no one else talked at halftime, and I was happy with the way the team responded." ... Philadelphia's Samuel Dalembert, sporting a mohawk of sorts, said Willie Green's barber in Detroit gave him the unique hairdo, complete with "LJ" and "SD" shaved into both sides of his head. "The SD is for strong defense," he said. "The LJ is for a loved one." Reggie Evans seemed to pity his teammate. "Willie, that's your fault," Evans said. "He's going to be on the bloopers."


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