Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pistons complete sweep of Magic

Cavs clip Wizards to take 3-0 series edge; Spurs grab 2-1 lead over Nuggets

April 29, 2007

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Orlando's Dwight Howard (22) dunks over Detroit's Antonio McDyess, left, and Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons defeated the Magic, 97-93, on Saturday in Orlando, Fla., to sweep their first-round series.

Orlando's Dwight Howard (22) dunks over Detroit's Antonio McDyess, left, and Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons defeated the Magic, 97-93, on Saturday in Orlando, Fla., to sweep their first-round series.

Cleveland's Drew Gooden, left, fights for possession with Washington's Darius Songaila. The Cavaliers defeated the Wizards, 98-92, on Saturday in Washington to take a 3-0 lead in their series.

Cleveland's Drew Gooden, left, fights for possession with Washington's Darius Songaila. The Cavaliers defeated the Wizards, 98-92, on Saturday in Washington to take a 3-0 lead in their series.

— The Orlando Magic had the lead, the momentum and the crowd support. The Detroit Pistons used their postseason experience to overcome all of it.

Chauncey Billups scored 25 points, Richard Hamilton added 19 and the Pistons avoided a fourth-quarter meltdown to beat the Magic, 97-93, Saturday and sweep the first-round series.

"The one thing we had such a big advantage on them is experience, and the only way you can get better at that is to go through it," Billups said. "I'm sure there are a lot of things they would change coming down the stretch."

The sweep was Detroit's first in the playoffs since 1990, when the "Bad Boys" won a second consecutive NBA title.

The Pistons handily won the first three games of the best-of-seven series, but the finale was much more difficult - mostly because Detroit went cold to start the final period.

The Pistons were ahead 78-69 early in the fourth, but after missing 11 of 13 shots to start the period, they found themselves trailing 85-80 with about three minutes remaining.

But the veteran team, which has advanced to four consecutive Eastern Conference finals, took control down the stretch.

Rasheed Wallace hit a three-pointer that made it 85-83. Chris Webber followed with a hook shot in the lane. Then Billups and Hamilton took over, combining to score Detroit's final 12 points.

Hamilton made a jumper in the lane to put the Pistons ahead 87-86, then Billups sank a driving layup high off the glass. Hamilton followed with another jumper - both came over undersized point guard Jameer Nelson - that made it 91-88.

The duo also went 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 21 seconds.

"It was good for us to step up and make the plays we did," Tayshaun Prince said. "Obviously, our leadership and our veterans kicked it into gear."

Dwight Howard had 29 points and 17 rebounds - dominating the post for the only time in the series - to lead the Magic. Wallace, Webber and others bottled up Howard in the first three games but had less success Saturday.

Howard was 10-of-15 from the field and 9-of-17 from the free-throw line.

Grant Hill, possibly playing his final game for Orlando, had 17 points. Darko Milicic added 14 - half of them in the closing minutes.

It wasn't enough, though.

"I thought we would at least get one (game)," Hill said. "Getting swept, that was a surprise."

All five Detroit starters scored in double figures. Prince and Wallace had 13 points apiece.

Cavaliers 98, Wizards 92

Washington - In an attempt to inspire the crowd and their teammates, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler were introduced with the Washington starting lineup. Arenas gingerly limped down the steps and across the court on his surgically repaired knee as the crowd went wild.

Nice try, fellas. Game 3, once it started, followed the same script as Games 1 and 2.

LeBron James had his best game of the series with 30 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Spurs 96, Nuggets 91

Denver - Tim Duncan had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker sliced their way through Denver's defense to lead San Antonio. The Spurs took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Monday night at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets went just 23-18 during the season, the seventh-worst home record in franchise history.

Parker led San Antonio with 21 points and Ginobili added 19.

Jazz 98, Rockets 85

Salt Lake City - Mehmet Okur broke out of his scoring slump with 16 points, stifled Yao Ming defensively, and Utah evened its first-round series with Houston. Deron Williams added 25 points, including 11 in the third quarter. Utah outscored Houston, 33-17, in the period and again flustered the Rockets into a listless second half while tying the series at two games apiece.

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