for this game

Hamilton, Pistons advance to conference finals

May 14, 2008 - 3:39 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons got a boost from the Orlando Magic en route to their sixth straight berth in the Eastern Conference finals.

Richard Hamilton scored 31 points as the Pistons eliminated the Magic with a 91-86 victory in Game Five of their conference semifinals series Tuesday night.

"It's an awesome feeling for us to get the opportunity to play in the Eastern Conference finals for six straight years, but it's one of those things that we feel as though we're supposed to," Hamilton said. "That's our confidence. We feel as though we have to make it there and we have to try to get back to the Finals."

Antonio McDyess, playing with a heavy heart after learning that his grandmother died before the game, had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who nearly blew a 10-point lead with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.

"It made me think she was looking down upon us, definitely, and I'll definitely dedicate this win to her because she never missed a game," McDyess said. "She always called me, always talking about the game.

"She loved the Pistons. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to win this game on such an important day of her passing - brings tears to my eyes, pretty much. I tried not to think about it when I was on the court. She was definitely with me."

Detroit will face either the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers, whose series is tied, 2-2.

The Pistons, who were playing their second straight game without All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups, now will get a chance to have his strained right hamstring heal while awaiting Game One of the conference finals.

They secured their latest trip to the brink of the NBA Finals thanks to some poor execution by the Magic.

Holding a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Orlando did not score from the field until the 3:35 mark of the final period on a jumper by Keith Bogans. It also committed 21 turnovers leading to 34 points for Detroit.

"It was a disappointing way to go out," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Nothing's going to feel good if you lose but, if you come in and you play great and they play great and you just can't get it done, that's one thing.

"But 21 turnovers and 57 percent at the free-throw line, it's just very disappointing to come into an elimination game and play that poorly and make that many mistakes."

But despite their sloppy play, the Magic would not go away after falling behind, 82-72, on McDyess' free throw with 3:49 left in the game.

Orlando cut its deficit to one point on Hedo Turkoglu's running layup with 40 seconds left but, after two free throws by Hamilton, Turkoglu chose to go for a quick two and was rejected by Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince with 12 ticks left.

"Obviously, he's a better shooter going to the left," said Prince, who also famously blocked Indiana's Reggie Miller from behind in the 2004 Eastern Conference finals. "So, I figured we're up three points, so I'm going to jump on his left hand and make him go right even though he's righthanded and see what happens. I just figured I had to make a play."

It was another late-game failure for Turkoglu, who missed a wild layup at the end of Game Four in a disappointing 90-89 loss at home.

Just like that contest, Turkoglu was carrying his club prior to coming up short in the final seconds. He had scored two tough layups - the final one to cap the Magic's 12-3 run to get back in the game.

But the reigning Most Improved Player, who had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, drove the ball immediately to Prince's right with 19 ticks. But the long and lean forward swatted his attempt at a strong righthanded jam.

"I couldn't do anything else," Turkoglu said. "I had to try to finish strong. He just did a great job. He's so long with his arms, and he did a great job to get the block."

Rookie Rodney Stuckey scored 15 points in Billups' absence for Detroit, which committed just three turnovers - none after the first quarter.

"He has a chance to be something very special in this league," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said of Stuckey. "He never backs away, and here's a rookie who plays two games in the conference semifinals, and doesn't have a turnover, and helps us set a record with three turnovers."

Dwight Howard, who has been quiet offensively in the series, collected 14 points and 17 rebounds for the Magic, who failed to come through on guard Jameer Nelson's guaranteed victory. Nelson scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

"It hurts, but we want to be a great team, and that's what the Pistons are right now," Howard said. "They are going for the championship, and next year, we want to be the ones playing in June."