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Billups, Pistons cruise against Magic

May 4, 2008 - 3:50 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard got banged up, and the Orlando Magic got beat down.

Chauncey Billups had 19 points and seven assists as the Detroit Pistons looked sharp in a 91-72 victory over a subdued Howard and the Magic on Saturday in Game One of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.

"This is a good win, obviously, coming off the last series and only having a day off, which was, I thought, good for us because we were playing good, solid basketball at the end of last series," Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince said. "It was good that we carried it over into (Saturday's) game."

Richard Hamilton scored 17 points for the second-seeded Pistons, who won eight straight postseason games against the Magic. Detroit swept Orlando in last season's opening round.

Game Two of the best-of-seven matchup will be here Monday.

Howard collected just 12 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes and left the game with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter with a thumb injury, which he suffered while trying to grab a rebound.

The All-Star center winced in pain as trainers wrapped his hand on the bench but was able to return to the game just 1:38 into the final period. However, after the injury, he seemed less aggressive and was not a factor in the final 12 minutes.

"It's fine. It's just a bruised thumb," Howard said. "I'll be all right."

The bruising big man was able to play with blue tape on his hand and was not immediately taken to the locker room for X-rays. After the game, tests revealed only a bruise.

"They play him the most physically of any team," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's hard for him to get great position, he always has bodies on him, they are always pushing him and he has contact on every play which kind of takes him a little off-balance.

"They did a very good job of this tonight, and I also think they did a pretty good job of keeping him off the glass, particularly in the second half."

The Magic already were overmatched before Howard took a hit.

Holding a seven-point lead after the third quarter, Detroit put the finishing touches on this one by outscoring Orlando, 26-15, in the final period. The performance was in stark contrast to the first round.

The Pistons, who struggled in the opening round against the Philadelphia 76ers, were ready for the third-seeded Magic, who dispatched the Toronto Raptors in five games to get to this point.

"That was a punch in the face right there, that was a wake-up call, what the Sixers did to us last round, Game One," said Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace, who had two 3-pointers, as many as the entire Orlando team.

"So, we just couldn't let it happen tonight. We know this is a good team and, if we get down in this series, not saying that we'll lose, but it'll be a harder fight than we had with the Sixers. That's one thing we've been saying to ourselves, 'You can't get down in the series. Just go out here and play basketball."

While the Pistons seemed surprised by the Sixers' talents, they knew exactly what to expect against the Magic, who led the league in 3-pointers made this season. Orlando shot just 2-of-15 from the arc Saturday night.

"We just tried to play our game tonight, and it didn't work," newly minted Most Improved Player Hedo Turkoglu said. "They had more intensity than us, and we just need to go out there and give it our best.

"We had some turnovers, couldn't make some shots and had some great opportunities, but they were able to open up the lead, and it was tough after that."

Detroit's All-Star backcourt of Billups and Hamilton was decisively better than Orlando's tandem of Jameer Nelson and Maurice Evans. The Magic's duo scored just 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

As such, Orlando was flat on offense after averaging 104.0 points against Toronto in the first round.

"This wasn't about them as much as it was about our lack of execution," Magic guard Keith Bogans said. "We didn't take good shots, so we we didn't make shots."

The teams were tied at 22-22 after the first quarter as Detroit's Hamilton and Orlando's Rashard Lewis each scored eight points in the period.

In the second quarter, the Pistons led by as many as six on five different occasions, but the Magic responded with a 7-2 run to end the first half en route to just a 43-42 deficit.

Turkoglu gave the Magic their first lead of the game, 44-43, at 10:24 with a soaring dunk on a one-man fast break.

The Pistons then went on a 19-3 run which included six points apiece from Prince and Wallace. Orlando came back with a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to 65-58 at the end of three but could not respond after Howard's injury.

Lewis scored 18 points for the Magic, who are making their first appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals since a trip to the conference finals in 1996.

    ORLANDO 73

    May 3 9:56 PM

    ORLANDO 58

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    Magic 48, Pistons 55  3rd - 6:00May 3 9:04 PM

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    Magic vs. PistonsMay 3 3:12 AM