Pistons Slip Past Sixers in OT, Off to Conference Finals

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Detroit 93, Philadelphia 89 (OT)
Pistons Slip Past Sixers in OT, Off to Conference Finals

Iverson and Hamilton embraced after Game 6 on Friday.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA, May 16 (Ticker) -- Even on a bum ankle, Chauncey Billups had enough to be a hero - again.

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With pain shooting through his heavily taped sprained ankle, Billups shot the Detroit Pistons into the Eastern Conference finals with a 93-89 overtime victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I'm not afraid to fail," Billups said. "I've failed a lot of times in my life. I'm not afraid to do that. I'm not afraid to step up and be the hero, either. That's just me."

The top-seeded Pistons turned back Allen Iverson, advanced to the conference finals for the first time in 12 years and will host the New Jersey Nets in Game One on Sunday.

Billups had been Detroit's leading scorer in the playoffs until spraining his ankle in the opener. He sat out two games, was ineffective in limited minutes in Game Four and sat out again in Game Five.

But with the Pistons staring at the specter of a second straight Game Seven, Billups decided to give it a go, even if he couldn't go to the basket.

"I'm probably about 80-85 percent, maybe," Billups said. "I got elevation back on my shot. The only thing is I was surprised I was able get past my man, but I wasn't able to explode and finish. That's where right now I'm limited in a major way, just to explode and finish on my pick-and-rolls. That's tough. It's tough to turn the corner like I usually do."

Limited primarily to outside shots, Billups still was the difference. Playing 40 minutes, he scored nine of his 28 points in overtime - all on 3-pointers.

"We went into overtime and I just told them right before the timeout, 'I am about to take this game over,'" Billups said. "I told them and they were like, 'All right.' I was very, very aggressive in the overtime. I tried to look for my shot and just tried to keep the game going."

All season, Billups has been one of the best clutch shooters in the NBA. He struck again, drilling a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left that snapped an 89-89 tie and sent the 76ers into the offseason.

"I've been in that situation a lot this year," Billups said. "The thing about me is, I'm just not afraid to fail. A lot of people don't step up and take those shots because they worry about missing them. I've been in a situation and missed those shots time and time again, but it takes a guy that has a lot of guts."

"His ability to rise up and hit long-range shots has been something that's been a big key for us, particularly in late-game situations all year," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "Once again he stepped forward and hit shots."

Richard Hamilton scored 19 points and Ben Wallace grabbed 18 rebounds as Detroit improved to a sterling 10-0 in overtime this season. Three of those wins came against Philadelphia, including two in this series.

"When we came in here tonight, we said, 'This our Game Seven,'" Hamilton said. "We stuck with it and got the opportunity to win in the overtime."

"Going into the overtime, nobody wanted to say anything about it, because you don't want to jinx it," Pistons rookie swingman Tayshaun Prince said. "You've got to go out there and play. We started off the right way. We let them get back in it, but then Chauncey hit one of those shots he's been making all season."

Once again, Iverson nearly willed his team to victory. Playing all 53 minutes, the superstar guard scored 38 points, handed out nine assists and single-handedly erased a six-point deficit in overtime. But he had very little help and was harassed by the NBA's best defense into 14-of-33 shooting.

"I feel bad, obviously, because this is another season gone by and my dream didn't come true," Iverson said. "I need to look in the mirror at myself. There's a lot more I can do to make us a better team, playing the game and verbally. There are just a lot of things that I understand that I have to do to get better, plus to have a chance to win a championship."

For the second straight game, Philadelphia's Eric Snow made what appeared to be a game-winning shot. His 20-footer with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Sixers an 81-79 lead.

And for the second straight game, Snow was upstaged. Billups drew a foul from him and calmly sank the tying free throws with 14 seconds remaining, and the teams headed to overtime when the Sixers could not get off a shot.

Billups drew a sixth foul on Snow and quickly took advantage of his absence, making a pair of 3-pointers around a follow shot by Kenny Thomas. After Iverson missed a jumper, Billups threw a terrific look-away 60-foot pass to rookie Tayshaun Prince, who dunked for an 89-83 lead with 2:39 to go, bringing boos from the crowd at First Union Center.

"One time I got an open look and knocked it down," Billups said. "Another time, it was a tough shot; I just jabbed him and got it up. I kind of turned it on a little bit."

Iverson came roaring back, throwing in a short hook, driving for a layup and taking a long rebound coast to coast for the tying basket at the 1:12 mark. But he missed a jumper on the next possession, and could not convert a drive after Billups made his go-ahead shot.

"In the overtime he brought us back and make some unbelievable plays," Brown said. "You can't put it all on one kid. It's just not right."

As they did all series, the Pistons got a tremendous lift from their bench. Corliss Williamson scored 17 points and Prince added 14.

Derrick Coleman had 14 points and 11 boards and Thomas added 12 and 14 for the Sixers, who were outscored 24-12 from the arc and 31-19 from the line.

"When you know your team has given you what they can, whenever you ask, and you see their feelings in that dressing room, that is pretty tough," Sixers coach Larry Brown said.

Keith Van Horn, Philadelphia's second-leading scorer during the season, had just two points in 45 minutes, capping an awful series. He shot just 39 percent (16-of-42) and averaged 7.8 points, reaching double figures once.

Iverson arrived just a half-hour before tip-off due to traffic but seemed unfazed as he made five of his first six shots. The Sixers built a 14-point lead, blew it, then regrouped for a 44-36 halftime bulge.

The Pistons again climbed back in it in the third quarter, when they shot 19 free throws and briefly grabbed the lead before heading to the fourth period trailing, 64-63.

"When we were up 14 points, we really had an opportunity to take this game away," Van Horn said. "We let then slowly slip back into it."

Neither team led by more than a bucket until a fadeaway jumper by Coleman and two from the line by Iverson made it 76-72 with 3:39 to play. Iverson's jumper - his first basket since the 7:49 mark of the third quarter - gave Philadelphia a 79-76 edge, but Billups zipped a pass to Williamson, who converted a three-point play that tied it with 1:07 left.