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Billups, Prince lead Pistons to commanding lead over Bulls

May 11, 2007 - 5:57 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups and the Detroit Pistons are on the precipice of their fifth straight trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points and Billups added 17 of his 21 in the second half as the Pistons rallied from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Chicago Bulls, 81-74, in Game Three of their conference semifinal series Thursday.

Richard Hamilton had 16 points and seven assists and Rasheed Wallace also scored 16 while grabbing 11 rebounds for Detroit, which took a commanding 3-0 series lead. Game Four is here Sunday.

"They are a great team, we will really have to come out and match their energy," said Prince of Game Four on Sunday. "If we don't do that they will get a big lead like tonight."

The Pistons have won seven straight playoff games, including a four-game sweep of the Orlando Magic in the first round.

This is the first time the Bulls have fallen behind 3-0 in a seven-game playoff series since being swept by the Boston Celtics in 1981.

The Bulls took a 49-30 lead just 1:33 into the second half on a pair of free throws by Ben Gordon before the Pistons went on a furious 20-6 run.

"Our comeback was impressive," Hamilton said. "In the first half we gave them too much space, but in the second half we took that away from them. We started to drive to the basket and made plays for each other."

It was capped with a dunk by Prince off an over-the-shoulder pass from Billups from the top of the key, cutting the deficit to 55-50 with 2:40 left in the third quarter.

"It was a good come back for us," Billups said. "We knew we had to close the gap in the third quarter and we did that. We started to play Piston basketball."

Wallace made a 27-foot 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to slice Chicago's lead to 61-60.

"In the third quarter we let up for four or five minutes and they took control of the game," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said.

"As we chopped the lead down to 11 then 9, you could sense them tightening up," Wallace said.

Billups scored 10 points in the period - including two 3-pointers - for Detroit, which started the game 0-of-8 from the arc but finished 6-of-21 overall.

"I wanted to be aggressive," Billups said. "I had to do that because my teammates look at my demeanor out there. When I pick up my intensity it's a trickle down effect."

In the fourth quarter, the Pistons took 62-61 lead on a turnaround jumper by Wallace from the right block with 10:11 left. It was Detroit's first lead since a 6-4 advantage early in the first quarter.

"Once we got behind in the second half we struggled to find the handle on loose balls," Skiles said. "We missed some easy shots right by the basket."

After Luol Deng split a pair of free throws to knot the contest at 66-66 with 7:24 remaining, the Pistons used a 15-5 burst capped by two free throws by Prince with eight seconds left to open their largest lead at 81-71.

"We switched to a zone defense and it was phenomenal, then our defensive traps got us some open court opportunities," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.

"They made basket after basket and shot after shot in the second half and we couldn't find the basket," Gordon said.

The Bulls scored only three points in the final 3:16 on a basket and free throw by Deng with three seconds left.

"They are a very good team," Deng said. "Once they made their run we just could not match their intensity."

The Pistons shot just 40 percent (32-of-81) but held the Bulls to a paltry 34 percent (28-of-83). It was the third straight game in this series Chicago has been held to 34 percent or less.

With the score tied, 22-22, with 7:30 left in the second quarter, the Bulls went on a 20-4 run, which was capped by a layup and subsequent free throw by Deng, to take a 44-26 lead with 16 seconds left in the half.

Gordon and Brown each scored six points and Deng added five in the burst for Chicago, which held Detroit to 10 points in the period on 4-of-18 shooting.

Deng scored 21 points and hauled in 14 rebounds and Gordon added 16 points for Chicago, which has won Game Four just once in four tries when facing a 3-0 series deficit.

"We have to continue to play hard," Deng said. "We just have to go out and get one win at a time."

Kirk Hinrich scored 13 points and grabbed 11 boards for the Bulls, who had a 60-43 rebounding advantage but made just 10 field goals the entire second half.

"Offensively we didn't do anything, we didn't execute very well," Bulls forward P.J. Brown said. "Give them credit for the way they played their zone. When they switched to it we didn't figure it out."

    DETROIT 81

    May 10 11:24 PM
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    Pistons vs. BullsMay 10 11:11 PM

    DETROIT 60

    May 10 10:47 PM

    DETROIT 28

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    Pistons vs. BullsMay 10 9:44 PM

    DETROIT 18

    May 10 9:29 PM