Rip, Billups combine for 50

Updated: June 11, 2004, 1:19 AM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit's little two played big.

Pistons guards Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups combined for 50 points to lead Detroit to an 88-68 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, and a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Hamilton had 31 points, two short of his career-playoff high, shooting 11-for-22 from the field. Billups scored 19 and went 5-for-11. Both made all seven of their free throws and each had three assists.

"When me and Chauncey are on, it's hard to stop us, especially when we take good shots," Hamilton said. "We really let our offense dictate our shots, we didn't go one-on-one. Everybody did a good job of setting us up."

Detroit's backcourt was so dominant, it outscored the Lakers' All-Star guards, Gary Payton and Kobe Bryant, by 33 points. Hamilton and Billups have yet to play in an All-Star Game.

"When those guys play like that, we pretty much are a great basketball team," teammate Tayshaun Prince said.

Bryant, who was hounded by Prince, didn't make a field goal until midway through the third and finished 4-for-13 for 11 points. Payton had six points and seven assists.

Games 4 and 5 in the best-of-seven series are at The Palace, but Billups said the Pistons are not even thinking about closing out the series at home against a team going for its fourth title in five years.

"We can't look down the road. This is a team that's battle-tested," he said.

Billups had his way with the Lakers -- again.

He scored a team-high 27 points in Game 2 after leading Detroit to a series-opening win with 22 points. In two regular-season meetings against the Lakers, he scored 53.

After a lackluster Game 1, Hamilton had his second straight strong game offensively. He scored 26 points on Tuesday in Los Angeles, following a 12-point performance in Game 1.

Hamilton's big night came two days after Bryant, his old high school rival, made an overtime-forcing 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in Game 2 over Hamilton's outstretched arm.

"He got into a groove," Bryant said. "Got some breakout opportunities, and he was able to get his jump shot going. He was in a good flow."

Detroit's defense made the Lakers look lackluster, and its backcourt gave the Pistons scoring punch.

Hamilton and Billups made 16 of 33 shots while their teammates made just 15 of 43 attempts.

The duo also made up for poor shooting by their teammates at the free throw line. While they were perfect from the line, the rest of the Pistons were 7-for-16.

At halftime, Pistons coach Larry Brown was upset that Hamilton had 14 points -- without an assist.

"I almost strangled him in the first half," Brown said. "But he played a great game for us."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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