76ers try to avert elimination

May 16, 2003 at 1:10 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, May 16 (UPI) -- The Detroit Pistons must overcome their road worries if they are to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 12 years on Friday.

The Pistons take a 3-2 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers into Game Six of their best-of-seven semifinal series.

If trends mean anything, Detroit is in trouble.

The home team has won each game in the series. The Pistons also have lost 13 of their last 14 postseason road contests. The one win came in the first round against Orlando.

"We gotta win another game," said Detroit Coach Rick Carlisle. "Philly is a tough place to play. We were a good road team during the year, and we're going to go in there and try to get it done. We know it's going to be a loud energetic building in Philadelphia. That doesn't guarantee they're going to win the game. With us being up 3-2 with a chance to close it out, it doesn't guarantee we're going to go in there and beat them."

On Wednesday, the Pistons pulled out a 78-77 victory when a runner by Chucky Atkins with less than a second left was goaltended by Derrick Coleman.

Atkins has started the last four games since starting point guard Chauncy Billups went down with a sprained left ankle in Game One. He scored 17 points on Wednesday, and is averaging 16 in the past four contests.

Atkins likely will start again for Billups, who underwent additional tests Thursday and is listed as day-to-day.

If the 76ers are to become just the eighth team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games, they likely will need star guard Allen Iverson to bounce back from a tough shooting night.

Iverson had the third-worst playoff shooting performance of his career in Game Five, making only 5-of-25 shots and 14 points. He also had nine assists and eight rebounds.

Iverson has split eight elimination games in the last four years. Three of the defeats came at the First Union Center.

"We just always have to do everything the hard way," Iverson said. "Hopefully we can get back home, get a win, and try to get back (to Philadelphia) and start over again."

The Sixers are 6-4 in elimination games since returning to the playoffs in 1999, but in the six series they have faced elimination, they have only advanced to the next round twice.

If necessary, Game Seven will be Sunday in Detroit. The winner of this series will take on New Jersey, which swept Boston in its semifinal series.

On Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs ended the three-year championship run of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 110-82 rout Game Six rout in their Western Conference semifinal series as Tim Duncan scored 37 points and added 16 rebounds.

The Spurs have three days off before they begin the Western Conference finals.

The Sacramento Kings forced a decisive seventh game in their Western Conference semifinal series against Dallas Mavericks as Bobby Jackson scored 21 points in a 113-109 victory.

Game Seven is Saturday night at Dallas.

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