Sat, May 03, 2008 - Page 20 News List

PLAYOFFS: Pistons victory seals semi-finals place

BACK WITH A BANGDespite struggling for most of the series, Chauncey Billups made his presence felt on Thursday by netting 11 points in the second quarter

AFP , PHILADELPHIA

The Detroit Pistons booked their second-round berth in the NBA playoffs on Thursday with an emphatic 100-77 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and Chauncey Billups chipped in 20 with seven assists for the Pistons, who completed a 4-2 victory in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

Tayshaun Prince added 12 points for the second-seeded Pistons, who will open the conference semi-finals against the third-seeded Orlando Magic today.

The Pistons are seeking their sixth straight appearance in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Pistons scored the first 10 points of the game and led 30-12 at the end of the first quarter. Shooting an impressive 58 percent from the field, the Pistons never looked back.

Andre Iguodala scored 16 points for the Sixers, who lost the last three games of the series after taking a 2-1 lead.

The Pistons had also trailed in game four before surging past the Sixers in the second half to set the stage for their series victory.

Since that key third quarter of the fourth game, the Pistons left little doubt that they deserved the championship hype they received entering the playoffs.

“They beat us from the start to the finish — from the fourth game’s second half, when we were up 10, until now,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said.

Billups struggled for much of the series but made his presence felt late, netting 11 points in the second quarter on Thursday, including a jumper as time expired to make it 51-33 at half-time.

The final two quarters were nothing more than a glorified scrimmage as a previously energized Philadelphia crowd largely departed after the third period.

Philadelphia didn’t score until Willie Green nailed a pair of free throws three minutes into the opening period. But the Pistons kept the pressure on.

“Our feeling was we wanted to jump on them early,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.

Hamilton was the star of the opening period with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and was 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.

Detroit shot 11-of-16 from the field in the first 12 minutes.

“We had to jump on them from the gate and not give them a chance to linger around in the game late in the third quarter and fourth quarter for them to try to keep it close,” said Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace. “So we went straight from the gate.”

After scoring eight straight points that were capped by an alley-oop dunk by Samuel Dalembert, Philadelphia got within 34-22 in the second quarter. However, Detroit answered with a 7-0 scoring run.

It was more of the same in the third quarter for the Pistons thanks to Hamilton, who hit a shot from the arc with 11:16 to go to make it 54-33 and let the Sixers know there would be no relaxation in the final two periods.

Billups ended the quarter with a three-pointer that gave the Pistons a 79-51 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t think they could continue making the shots they made throughout the game,” Cheeks said. “And they did. We never got a run and never got anything going.”

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