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Prince (24 points) leads the way

4/30/2004

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Tayshaun Prince may not be one of the
biggest names associated with the Detroit Pistons -- unless it's the
playoffs.

Prince had the best all-around postseason game of his brief NBA
career Thursday night, scoring 24 points with a career-high eight
assists and nine rebounds to lift Detroit to a 91-77
series-clinching victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of
their first-round series.

"He probably was the most valuable player in the series,"
Pistons coach Larry Brown said.

The Pistons now move on to face the New Jersey Nets, the
two-time defending Eastern Conference champions who swept Detroit
in the conference finals last season.

Game 1 is Monday night.

"We're a much better team than we were last year, and they're
about the same," said Chauncey Billups, who had 19 points and six
assists. "But that same team was good enough to make it to the NBA
finals the last two years."

Detroit took control with a 30-point third quarter after scoring
just 39 points in the first half and leading by seven.

Richard Hamilton had 18, Rasheed Wallace had 11 points and 11
rebounds and Ben Wallace added nine points, 12 rebounds and four
blocks.

Milwaukee's Michael Redd scored 22 and Joe Smith had 16. Desmond
Mason scored 14 and Keith Van Horn added 11 points and 12 rebounds
for the Bucks, one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season.

"We fought hard all the way, so this doesn't diminish what
we've done," Redd said. "We just ran into a better team."

At this time last season, Prince went from sitting on the bench
to playing a key role in Detroit's run to the conference finals.

He followed that up with a solid second season -- and yet another
strong postseason. The lanky small forward averaged 17.6 points,
7.6 rebounds, three assists and two blocks against Milwaukee.

"He was probably the X-factor," Bucks coach Terry Porter said.
"He plays off the other players really well. In the series, he was
really at the top of his game.

While the Bucks focused on Billups and Hamilton on the perimeter
and Rasheed Wallace inside, Prince often was left alone.

"I've got to make them pay," he said.

Prince shot 11-of-15 in the series finale, and ranks among the
top shooters in the playoffs.

"I was able to get some wide-open shots because of the
double-teams," he said. "It wasn't like I was a go-to guy. I was
just feeding off everybody else."

After a sluggish start, Detroit earned its first cushion with a
9-0 run for a 37-28 lead late in the second quarter. An 8-0 run in
the third gave Detroit a 49-36 lead, and the Pistons went ahead by
17 before taking a 69-54 lead into the final quarter.

Milwaukee did little more than trade baskets in the fourth
quarter and never mounted a comeback.

"We knew they were going to come out fighting and they did,"
Billups said. "But we wore them down and took over."

Last year in the first round, Detroit became just the seventh of
150 NBA teams to win a series after trailing 3-1 when it rallied
against Orlando.

The Pistons didn't give Milwaukee a chance to pull off the same
feat, but they didn't seem to be motivated to play until late in
the first half.

It took Detroit six minutes to take the lead, and the Pistons
were ahead 24-22 after the first quarter. Following a late spurt,
the Pistons led 39-32 at halftime as both teams made less than 39
percent of their shots.

Game notes
Detroit's Corliss Williamson, who has been slowed by a sore
knee and elbow, did not play. Brown said Williamson would be ready
to play the Nets. ... In three playoff series, Detroit is 9-2
against the Bucks. ... Faces in the crowd included Detroit Tigers
Ivan Rodriguez and Rondell White.