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Billups, Wallace lift Pistons over Magic

5/3/2003

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Chauncey Billups broke out of his 3-point
shooting slump in a big way, sending the Magic-Pistons series back
to Detroit for a decisive Game 7.

Making more 3-pointers in the first quarter than he had all
series, Billups scored a career-high 40 points and the Pistons
blanketed the Magic defensively for a second straight game in a
103-88 victory Friday night.

The victory evened the first-round series at 3-3 and set up a
win-or-walk situation Sunday in Detroit.

"The team that wins moves on, and the team that loses is going
to feel like they've lost a golden opportunity,'' Orlando coach Doc
Rivers said. "Being up 3-1, losing two games is very difficult for
our team.''

Billups shot 7-of-14 on 3-pointers, including all five tries in
the first period when Detroit seized a lead it would never
relinquish. He entered the game shooting 14 percent (4-for-28) from
behind the arc, but credited a healed left thigh bruise for his
turnaround.

"Shooters shoot,'' said Billups, who beat his previous scoring
high by four. "I'm just continuing to stay aggressive.''

Richard Hamilton added 22 points, and Ben Wallace had his fourth
double-double of the series, tying his career-high with 20 points,
grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking five shots.

Snapping a 12-game road playoff losing streak, the Pistons moved
within one win of becoming only the seventh team in NBA playoff
history to avoid elimination after falling behind 3-1. Also,
Detroit would dodge the ignominy of being ousted by a No. 8 seed,
which has happened only twice before -- by the Miami Heat in 1999
and Seattle in 1994 -- since the NBA went to a 16-team format in
1984.

"We dug a hole for ourselves and we could've felt sorry for
ourselves and gave up,'' Wallace said. "Or, we could've came out
and did what we did.''

Orlando shot 39.5 percent, missing 16 of 18 3-point attempts,
and turned the ball over 17 times for 17 points. In the past two
games, the Magic have shot less than 36 percent with 37 turnovers.

"Our defense should've been questioned (before Game 5) because
Orlando was shooting 46 percent at that point,'' Detroit coach Rick
Carlisle said. "I just continue to say that if you're going to
allow a team like Orlando to shoot in the high 40s, you're going to
get beat.''

Tracy McGrady had 37 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando,
although he looked increasingly fatigued as the game wore on.
Playing all but 25 seconds despite tendinitis in both knees,
McGrady shot 11-for-28, 1-of-6 on 3s, and scored only six points in
the fourth quarter.

Gordan Giricek scored 12 points while Drew Gooden added 11
points and 12 rebounds. The rest of the team combined for 28 points
on 10-of-31 shooting.

"Right now, they seem a little tentative again,'' McGrady said.
"With this being Game 7, we've got to lay everything on the line
and everybody's got to step up.''

The first quarter went according to the series' trend, with
Detroit knocking the Magic back on their heels.

The Pistons sank six straight shots in a 19-6 run to grab a
seven-point edge after Orlando jumped out to an 11-5 lead. Billups'
last salvo, a long 3 with 5 seconds remaining, gave Detroit a 30-21
lead at the quarter's end.

"Too much Chauncey,'' McGrady said. "That guy was feeling it
tonight.''

Orlando missed 11 straight shots in a stretch that lasted into
the second quarter, and Detroit went up 34-22 with 10:04 remaining
on Hamilton's turnaround jumper as the shot clock wound down.

The Magic finally awoke from their typical early snooze and
began to rally behind McGrady. His two foul shots closed the gap to
46-43 with 1:05 left before halftime.

Orlando's Steven Hunter, already having a terrible series,
fouled Michael Curry on a long jumper for a three-point play, then
tossed the ball away on the ensuing inbounds. Hunter was yanked
immediately, but not before taking a tongue-lashing from Darrell
Armstrong -- just as Andrew DeClercq had blistered him late in Game
5 when he allowed Mehmet Okur two easy baskets.

Billups wasted little time converting Hunter's mistake into his
sixth 3-pointer of the half, and the Pistons led 54-45 at the
break.

"That stopped their run a little bit,'' Billups said. "It took
their air out of them.''

Orlando closed the deficit to seven points four times in the
third quarter, but a 9-2 Detroit push put the game out of reach.
Corliss Williamson, who sat out all of Game 5, hit two baskets soon
after entering, and Hamilton's reverse layup gave the Pistons a
71-57 lead with 3:30 to go in the period.

From there, Orlando could get no closer than seven points.

Game notes
The game featured 63 personal fouls and took 2:49 to
complete. ... The Magic are 5-5 when they can clinch a series win,
2-1 at home. ... Detroit is 9-23 in games to avoid elimination,
6-10 when the series is seven games. ... Detroit hadn't beaten a
winning team on the road since a victory against the Boston Celtics
on Jan. 31. ... Before the game, the Magic honored recently freed
POW Army Chief Warrant Officer David Williams, whose family lives
in Orlando. The Apache helicopter pilot was captured and spent
three weeks in captivity in Iraq before he and six other POWs were
rescued April 13.