AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 3 (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons had all the answers.

Richard Hamilton scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as the defending NBA champion Pistons pulled away for an 88-78 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers that wrapped up their Eastern Conference first-round series in five games.

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The second-seeded Pistons used their remarkable balance and championship experience to easily dispatch the seventh-seeded 76ers, who were forced to rely too heavily on "The Answer" - league scoring champion Allen Iverson.

"They have too many weapons," 76ers coach Jim O'Brien said of the Pistons. "They have five guys who can score. If you load up on defense against one guy, they'll pass the basketball to another guy that started on a defending NBA champion."

The Pistons had six players with at least eight points, including four in double figures. That was a trend throughout the series that the Sixers could not affect at all.

"That's what's unique about our team," Pistons center BenWallace said. "We don't have to depend on one guy to carry us night in and night out. We don't look for one guy to take 20 or 30 shots. We look for everybody to be playmakers. I think that's been the key for us all season."

Meanwhile, Iverson was the fulcrum of Philadelphia's offense, responsible for more than 55 percent of its points in the series. As a result, Detroit always knew where Philadelphia was going, while the 76ers never knew where the Pistons were going.

"The Sixers live and die with Iverson, so we try to make it tough on him - force him to give up the ball or force him to put up tough shots - which works in our favor," Wallace said.

For the fourth straight year, the Pistons are going to the conference semifinals. They will have several days rest as they await the winner of the Boston-Indiana series. That could help Tayshaun Prince, who played 45 minutes despite a sprained ankle suffered in Sunday's overtime victory.

"He was a little lame but we didn't expect him to sit on the sideline and watch the game," Wallace said. "We expected him to come out there and give everything he had. I hate to sound selfish, but we expect that of each other. If a guy can go, we expect him to come out and give us what he can. Tayshaun's a warrior - he's been one all season."

Iverson scored 11 of his 34 points in the third quarter, helping the Sixers take a 61-60 lead into the final period. Prince opened with a jumper, giving the Pistons the lead for good.

At the 11:16 mark, Iverson rose for a 3-pointer and landed on Lindsey Hunter's foot, twisting his right ankle. He had to be helped off the court but had his ankle quickly retaped and missed just 20 seconds - the only time he sat over the last three games.

"He has the heart of a lion," Hamilton said. "He fights every minute he's in the game, and he gets the other guys fighting, too."

Iverson's presence was not enough, however. Chauncey Billups made two free throws before Hamilton took charge, scooting around screens to make five jumpers over the next five minutes as he tormented Aaron McKie.

"(Philadelphia) made some switches on defense, and that allowed me to get open," Hamilton said. "I just made the shots when I got open. We didn't want to let this game slip away. We always feel as though the fourth quarter is our quarter."

Two free throws by reserve forward Antonio McDyess, who also had a big series, made it 80-69 with 4:48 to go and started the party at The Palace.

The players, however, left the celebrating to the fans.

"We're trying to get back to where we were last year," Wallace said. "Then we'll celebrate a little."

Iverson, who also contributed seven assists, scored 19 of Philadelphia's 34 points in the second half, getting very little help. The only other Sixers in double figures were SamuelDalembert and Chris Webber, who scored 11 points each.

That didn't dampen Iverson's enthusiasm for the game or his team.

"I feel like doing it again," he said. "I feel like going through it all over again. I feel bad right now because we just lost, but I saw a lot of positive things this year with our team. I'm looking forward to next year and learning from what went on in this series."

Iverson earned the respect of Detroit's players and coaches.

"We didn't let him average 30 points a game," said Pistons coach Larry Brown, who coached Iverson for six seasons. "That was a highlight film what he did in this series. Jim O'Brien put him in an unbelievable situation where he scored and got other people involved. And he played all 48 minutes. He respects us, but we feel the same about him."

Billups scored 23 points, Prince added 14 and Ben Wallace 11 and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who survived 2-of-15 3-point shooting by holding a 46-33 advantage on the boards, another prevalent trend in the series.