Orlando, Fla. There is a reason the Detroit Pistons have been to five consecutive Eastern Conference finals. They proved it on Saturday, even without their All-Star point guard to hold things together in front of a hostile crowd.
Richard Hamilton scored 32 points and Hedo Turkoglu missed a layup with time running out as the Pistons beat the Orlando Magic, 90-89, to take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Pistons became the first team to win on the road in the second round this postseason, and can clinch their sixth consecutive conference finals appearance when this series returns to Detroit on Tuesday.
All of it happened with Chauncey Billups watching in a sport coat on the bench after straining a hamstring in Game 3.
"We just played 'D' - that's what we do," said Rasheed Wallace, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. "It was a physical game on both sides of the ball. That is our style; we like being physical. We just wish we could do that more often."
Tayshaun Prince scored 17 for Detroit, including an 11-foot runner for the go-ahead basket with 8.9 seconds left. Antonio McDyess added eight points and 14 boards.
The Pistons controlled the tempo in the second half after falling behind by 15 in the third quarter, deflated the Magic transition game that gassed up its Game 3 win and pounded Dwight Howard in the paint.
Still, Orlando had a chance late in the game - actually a few of them. Down by a point out of the timeout after Prince's basket, Turkoglu held the ball at the top of the key as time wound down, then missed a contested layup in the lane. Howard's follow also was no good, and neither player drew the foul they wanted. Jameer Nelson also missed one of two foul shots with 44 seconds left, which would have tied the game.
"From a coaching standpoint, we've had three end-of-the-game possessions in this series. And we haven't gotten a very good shot on any possession," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "So you've got to lay that on me."
Turkoglu made two three-pointers and a three-point play in a minute-and-a-half span that put Orlando ahead 86-84 with 2:33 left.
"I was reading the situation," Turkoglu said of the final sequence. "I didn't want to rush and force a bad shot. Maybe I was holding it too long instead of going right away. I'm just upset that I couldn't help the team."