for this game

Balanced Pistons take commanding lead over Magic

Apr 27, 2007 - 4:34 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons' starting five is showing its playoff chops.

Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points and Chauncey Billups added 21 as the Pistons shared the ball well en route to a 93-77 victory and a commanding three-games-to-none lead over the Orlando Magic in their first-round playoff series.

Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton added 15 points apiece for the top-seeded Pistons, who have never really been threatened in the first three contests of the best-of-seven matchup. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.

"Obviously, we take one game at a time, now that we have three wins it's important for us to go out there and get the fourth," Prince said. "Obviously, when you're up 2-0 and you're going on the road, you don't want to talk about a sweep or anything like that. That's not how we do things.

"We take it one possession at a time, one game at a time and now that we're up 3-0 it is very important to close it out because you can't give a team like this any life. We've done a great job of coming in here and getting the first one but we really have to stay focused and come out strong in Game Four."

Orlando coach Brian Hill isn't ready to pack it in.

"Well Game Four is a pride game," Hill said. "This is our building, we let them come in tonight and let them get a win. We have a game at home on Saturday afternoon, a quick turnaround. We have to try to come in and establish ourselves and not let them win the series.

Making it look easy, Detroit outmuscled Orlando on the glass, 47-39, and only turned the ball over eight times.

A veteran squad, the Pistons have cruised through the series thanks to their stable of stars in the starting lineup. In a league where a team's fate is directly linked to its superstars, Detroit is not reliant on one particular player.

"The way we're built doesn't revolve around a superstar," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "We got into every game with kind of an equal opportunity offense. That's why we have a lot of guys who score in double figures and guys that score about the same amount of points. And with us, you've got to defend everyone on the floor, not just one or two."

In Game Two, the Pistons' starting lineup of Billups, Hamilton, Wallace, Prince and Chris Webber combined for 88 of the team's points in a 98-90 win on Monday. Three nights later, it was another balanced attack for the Pistons, whose starting five combined for 84 - each scoring in double figures.

However, each member of the Pistons' starting unit is capable of taking over on any given night. Ironically, on Thursday, Prince - the only Detroit starter who has not made the All-Star team - made the biggest impact.

"(Prince) has been playing well," Saunders said. "He is the one guy on our team that no one talks about, but he goes out there and he is kind of like the silent assassin. He does everything. You almost don't want to take him out of the game.

"He does so much for us with the ball and he's the third ball-handler on the floor, that's one of the reasons we don't turn the ball over much."

The 6-9 forward, whose long arm get him noticed on the defensive end of the court, carried the Pistons with ball in his hands. Prince shot 8-of-16 from the field, nailing a number of contested jumpers - inserting the dagger into the Magic with the shot-clock running down on numerous occassions.

"He goes out there and kind of floats around and has the ability to make big shots at the end of the shot clock," Saunders said.

But Orlando could not focus all its attention on the lanky forward. Billups was 8-of-13 from the floor, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers and Hamilton, Webber and Wallace combined to shoot 15-of-37 from the field.

The Pistons shot 44 percent (34-of-78) from the floor, including 8-of-13 from the arc, and 17-of-23 from the free-throw line.

Jameer Nelson scored a career playoff-high 27 points and Dwight Howard added 11 and 12 rebounds for the Magic, who shot 42 percent (31-of-74) and just 12-of-21 on foul shots.

"Those guys have us down 3-0 right now," Nelson said. "But the thing is, we can come out and play loose, and try and come out with a victory. Just continue to play hard. They hit shots during the course of the game that normal teams don't hit."

Howard admitted his was bothered by multiple defenders.

"They just double-teamed me," Howard said. "I had to kick it out, find my shooters. And the guys on the outside, just got to trust them to making shots."

Despite its sluggish play for most of the game, Orlando scored the first eight points of the contest.

"We came out with emotion," Magic forward Grant Hill said. "They weathered the storm. And once the emotion wears off, you've got to play. They've been in those types of games as a unit and we haven't. So, once the emotion kind of wore off, you've got to play basketball. They outplayed us, simple as that."

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