Richard Hamilton scored 31 points as the Detroit Pistons advanced to the National Basketball Association semi-finals for the sixth year in a row by defeating Orlando 91-86 on Tuesday.
The Pistons captured the best-of-seven Eastern Conference second-round series 4-1 and will next play either the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers for a berth in next month’s NBA Finals.
During the latest run of trips to the NBA’s final four, the Pistons won a title in 2004 and lost the 2005 final to San Antonio in seven games, but lost in the East final in 2003 and the past two years.
Detroit improved to 15-3 in potential series-clinching games and became the first team to reach six conference finals in a row since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in the West from 1984 through 1989.
The Celtics, the NBA regular-season champions, lead Cleveland 2-1 in their series and are the only NBA team that would have a playoff home-court edge on the Pistons, who were ousted by the Cavaliers last year in the semi-finals.
Antonio McDyess scored 17 points, 11 of them in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 11 rebounds to spark the Pistons despite playing with a heavy heart after learning just before the game that his grandmother had died.
“It made me think she was looking down upon us and I’ll definitely dedicate this win to her because she never missed a game,” McDyess said. “She always called me, always talking about the game. She loved the Pistons. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to win this game on such an important day of her passing — brings tears to my eyes, pretty much. I tried not to think about it when I was on the court. She was definitely with me.”
The Pistons also had 15 points from Rodney Stuckey and 14 points from Rasheed Wallace.
Detroit scored 13 points in a row to seize a 78-70 edge and McDyess hit three free throws in a row to give the Pistons an 82-72 lead, their largest of the game.
Hedo Turkoglu, who led Orlando with 18 points, hit a jumper and assisted on a Rashard Lewis three-pointer to cut Detroit’s lead in half with 3 minutes, 8 seconds remaining and the margin was the same, 89-85, after Tayshaun Prince hit a free throw with 79 seconds left.
Turkoglu answered with back-to-back baskets to pull Orlando within a point, but the Turkish standout knocked a rebound out of bounds with 20.9 seconds remaining and Orlando began fouling to stop the clock.
Hamilton, who was perfect on 16 free throws, hit six in the final 19.6 seconds to keep the Magic at bay, while Prince blocked a Turkoglu dunk attempt and Orlando lost the ball out of bounds on the next possession, the 21st and last Magic turnover of the game. Those giveaways set up 34 Pistons points.
The Pistons played without point guard Chauncey Billups, who is suffering from a strained right hamstring suffered in a Game 3 road loss last week.
Dwight Howard had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Orlando, who failed to back up Jameer Nelson’s guarantee of a victory. Nelson also had 14 points.
Hornets 101, Spurs 79
David West battled through a pinched back nerve for the game of his life and as a result, defending National Basketball Association champions San Antonio are on the brink of a playoff exit.
The 27-year-old power forward scored 38 points to spark New Orleans past San Antonio on Tuesday, giving the Hornets a 3-2 edge over the Spurs in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series.