Four teams try to close out playoff series

ORLANDO, Fla., April 30 (UPI) -- The NBA made the first round of the playoffs longer, but four teams will try to keep their series short on Wednesday night.

The first-round format was expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven this season, and Orlando, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Sacramento all hold 3-1 leads in their respective series.


The biggest surprise involves the Magic, who visit the Detroit Pistons, and try to become just the third No. 8 seed to topple a No. 1 seed when their Eastern Conference series continues.

The others were the Denver Nuggets against the Seattle Sonics in 1994, and the New York Knicks against the Miami Heat in 1999.

The Magic have not won a postseason series since advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in 1996, when they were led by Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. They have been eliminated in the first round in their last four playoff appearances, including two straight with superstar Tracy McGrady.


"I'm just trying to get this franchise back on track, like it was when I was a young fellow watching Shaq and Penny here," McGrady said.

He had 27 points in a 100-92 home victory over Detroit on Sunday.

Detroit is shooting a mere 38.6 percent in the first four games, the worst of any team.

"We have our backs up against the wall now, and we do have a lot of fight," said Detroit guard Chauncey Billups. "It's not the best of situations, but the good thing is we get to go home in front of our crowd."

The Pistons are facing a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series for just the fourth time in franchise history. They have lost the previous three series, including the 2002 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics.

The Sixers will try to close out their Eastern Conference series against the Hornets.

Allen Iverson scored 22 points as the 76ers played a virtually flawless fourth quarter on the way to a 96-87 win Monday in New Orleans.

It was Iverson's lowest total in the series. He made just 9-of-28 shots after scoring a team playoff-record 55 points in the series opener. He has averaged 37.3 points in the first three games.


The Hornets have averaged 17.3 turnovers per game, and are now on the brink of elimination Wednesday in Philadelphia.

The Mavericks and Kings also can wrap up their Western Conference series on their respective home courts.

The Portland Trail Blazers snapped a 10-game postseason losing streak with a 98-78 rout of Dallas in Game Four at the Rose Garden on Sunday. Dallas looks to rebound and advance to the conference semifinals for the third straight season.

The Kings can earn their third straight trip to the Western Conference semifinals with a victory over Utah.

Sacramento is undefeated in three prior series when holding a 3-1 advantage. After losing Game Three, the Kings bounced back Monday with a 99-82 rout of the Jazz in Game Four at the Delta Center.

Peja Stojakovic scored 15 of his 27 points in the third quarter, and Chris Webber had 26 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento, which dominated the second half, outscoring Utah, 62-41.

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