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By Butch Beard (as told to Rob Peterson)

Grant Hill and Darko Milicic return to Detroit for Game 1 (April 21, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN) of the Pistons-Magic First Round series. The Pistons may be the prohibitive Eastern Conference favorites while the Magic have an uphill battle. We called on former NBA coach Butch Beard to break down the series and make a prediction.


Detroit is the best team in the East, I think and that includes what's happening down in Miami with the defending champions. I just don't know if the Heat have had enough time together to be a factor where Detroit has homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.


With Detroit, I hope they learned something from last year because of what happened against Cleveland. I think Cleveland took a lot out of them and that's the reason they didn't get to the Finals. I think they want to go ahead and take care of Orlando as quickly as possible.

When you look at this match ups, they do not favor Orlando whatsoever.

No. 1, you have Detroit with the best backcourt in Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in the game. Then you have Tayshaun Prince who can guard three different types of people. He can guard guards, small fowards and power forwards. And you have Wallace, if Rasheed is right mentally, is one of the toughest matchups in the game today at 6-11 and his ability to go outside and shoot three-point shots. Everything favors the Pistons. That and the Pistons are much deeper than last year. I think with Antonio McDyess, Lindsey Hunter and Jason Maxiell, Carlos Delfino and Nazr Mohammed that they should go ahead and take care of business.

And we didn't even mention Chris Webber. He's been very good for them, but the X-Factor has always been Wallace. He makes match ups very difficult for people.


You have Orlando, with the young club that they got and with the young budding, superstar in Dwight Howard. He could change this whole series. He, to me, is the most athletic big man in the game today. He's quick off his feet, a quick jumper and a great shot blocker. The one thing he's become better at is understanding where the double-teams come from. He's gotten better with that as the year goes along.

The key to whether Orlando will win the one game happens to be Grant Hill. He's not the Grant Hill we know because of injuries, but he still knows how to play. They'll need big games from him if they want to win a game.

Looking at Orlando, they may try to pressure, a little bit, full court. They'll try to play zone. I don't know if that's good or not, but if you just look at the match ups, I don't think it favors Orlando whatsoever. And Orlando isn't as deep as Detroit. There aren't good matchups at the forward position, because Hedo Turkoglu can catch and shoot the ball, so you put Prince on him to deny the ball. That takes away a scorer. Tony Battie had his best season, but he's still not a Rasheed Wallace.

Jameer Nelson will be interesting to watch. He's had a very good year for them. He's played big -- especially in college -- in big games. It will be interesting to see how he responds in this series.


It'll be a tough task for the Orlando to make this series competitive. I don't see Orlando causing any problems for the Pistons. Detroit in five.

-- Butch Beard appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association

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