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Detroit 98, Orlando 67

May 1, 2003 at 12:48 AM   |   Comments

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 30 (UPI) -- Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and Ben Wallace added 14 and 21 rebounds Wednesday night as the Detroit Pistons manhandled the Orlando Magic, 98-67, to avoid elimination in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Rookie Tayshaun Prince chipped in a season-high 15 points and Chauncey Billups also scored 15 for the Pistons, who never trailed as they climbed within 3-2 in their best-of-seven series against the eighth-seeded Magic.

"Well, (there's) not a lot to say except we got our butts kicked tonight," Pistons Coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought they were the more aggressive basketball team. I thought they deserved to win tonight. I thought they were more physical and they basically took it to us throughout the game."

The 1994 Seattle SuperSonics and the 1999 Miami Heat are the only top-seeded teams in NBA history to lose in the first round, both in best-of-five series.

"I knew our guys were going to play," Pistons Coach Rick Carlisle said. "There was just no question in my mind. Ben has been in an ornery mood since the weekend and justifiably so."

Detroit jumped out to a 26-13 advantage after one quarter and took a 37-15 lead on a jumper and free throw by Prince with 9:15 left in the second period.

"This time we came out with a lot of energy," Wallace said. "The way we came out tonight, we forced their team to defend us. Get down on defense, and making things tough for them. As long as we keep that energy while the game goes it will be tough to beat us."

Orlando climbed within 50-37 at the half and to within 59-51 on a dunk by Drew Gooden five minutes into the third quarter.

But the Pistons countered with a 14-0 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes to blow open the game. They continued to pull away and their largest lead Detroit was the final score.

"We've had a quick start all series and it hasn't done us any good," Hamilton said. "We have to sustain it like we did today."

"We didn't stop Rip Hamilton, we didn't stop nobody," said Magic guard Darrell Armstrong, who scored just three points.

Tracy McGrady scored 19 points for the Magic, who shot just 32 percent from the field. Dating to the regular season, it was just the second time in 56 games that McGrady, the league's leading scorer at 32 points per game, failed to reach 20 points.

"It was one of those nights when I would penetrate to try and make things happen," McGrady said. "I had no choice but to kick it out and find my guys. The thing tonight is that the shots weren't falling for us."

It was the Magic's worst postseason defeat since a 99-64 setback to Miami in a first-round matchup on April 24, 1997.

"Tonight was tonight," Armstrong said. "They whipped us tonight. They can't take them points that they won by and add it to the next game. Zero-zero when you start out."

Game 6 will be Friday night in Orlando.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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