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Billups early, Prince late help Pistons hold off Magic

Apr 22, 2007 - 4:47 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- While Chauncey Billups staked the Detroit Pistons to a comfortable lead, Tayshaun Prince preserved that advantage in the waning moments.

Billups had 22 points and 11 assists but Prince nailed the biggest shot of the game as the Pistons held off a late-game surge in a 100-92 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game One of their first-round playoff series.

Rasheed Wallace scored 16 points for Detroit, which has won three straight series openers in the first round. The Pistons reached the Eastern Conference finals last season and the NBA Finals the two previous campaigns.

"I just count down games won," Billups said. "If we win by one or 21, it doesn't matter. We want to play our best ball, but these are the playoffs. Everything we do, they're going to be ready for.

"Every game is different. Game Two will be altogether different than this one. They'll make adjustments, and we will, too. I've always said the series doesn't really start until one team wins on the road."

Billups shot just 5-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-6 from the 3-point arc, but was a steadying influence. The former NBA Finals MVP continually drove Magic guard Jameer Nelson to the basket and got to the line at will - nailing 11-of-12 foul shots.

The star guard admitted they attacked Nelson defensively no matter who he was guarding. At the outset, Richard Hamilton was able to go at Nelson before the Magic switched assignments.

"I wasn't surprised they started with Grant (Hill) guarding me," Billups said. "I just turned my focus on feeding Rip (Hamilton), so he could use his height advantage against Jameer (Nelson)."

As a result, Detroit cruised to a 91-77 lead with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter before taking its foot off the gas. Orlando went on a 13-2 run - capped by Dwight Howard's monster dunk - to make it 93-90 with 54 seconds left.

"We let off a little bit (at the end)," Wallace said. "I think we may have gotten a little lazy in our execution toward the end of the game. That's something we can definitely improve on and make it a bigger deficit next time."

But on the ensuing possession, the Pistons' experience paid dividends. Hamilton drove the ball into the lane and found Prince, who darted along the right baseline, absorbed contact and converted a tough layup to make it 95-90 with 37 seconds left. He missed the ensuing free throw.

"We missed some shots when we tried to push it after getting up 14 or 16 and they came back," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "Overall, I thought we did a lot of positive things."

Prince shot 4-of-7 from the field and dished out six assists, and Wallace was 6-of-12, including 3-of-5 from the arc for the Pistons, who shot 49 percent (36-of-73).

Howard collected 13 points and 19 rebounds for the Magic, who shot a blistering 58 percent (38-of-62) but committed 20 turnovers.

"I wasn't nervous, but it was my first playoff game and I was probably too amped up to play," Howard said. "The difference in the playoffs is that every possession counts."

Orlando also shot a miserable 18-of-36 from the free-throw line.

"We knew they have some high flyers," Billups said. "We wanted to keep them away from that and have our big guys foul them and make them shoot free throws. When we played them the last time in the regular season, we made them use the free-throw line and they didn't shoot very well."

"There's nothing we can do about the free throws, other than keep working on them," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "The turnovers we have to correct; 21 turnovers against a team of that caliber is just too many. They're a good defensive team but a lot of those were unforced."

    ORLANDO 92

    Apr 21 9:46 PM
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    RUWTbot Added 35 roots

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    ORLANDO 67

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    ORLANDO 43

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