No Chauncey Billups? No problem for the Pistons. Despite its All-Star point guard sitting out with a hamstring injury, Detroit rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to win at Orlando and seize a commanding 3-1 lead in their playoff series.
Rip Hamilton led the way with 32 points, but several Pistons veterans made big contributions, including Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and even the fossilized Lindsey Hunter. Detroit didn't quit after falling behind, played physically but within control, took care of the ball, hit the boards for second-chance opportunities, made 14-of-15 free throws, kept Dwight Howard in check all game and held Orlando to 34 points in the second half. In other words, it was classic Pistons.
The Magic have to be crestfallen after letting this one get away. They led 63-48 at one point early in the third before going ice cold from the floor and letting Detroit get back in the game. Hedo Turkoglu scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth to help Orlando briefly regain the lead, but it wasn't enough. In the final minutes, the Magic turned the ball over, missed free throws (including a big one by Jameer Nelson, who was just two-of-six from the line for the game) and allowed the peskier and more physical Pistons to get in their heads (Keyon Dooling's technical foul on Hamilton).
Even Howard seemed to lose focus in Game 4. Superman had just eight points (on 3-of-12 shooting), 12 rebounds, and one block (on the first possession of the game). He fumbled away a couple passes early, went half the game without making a field goal, and picked up a matching technical after getting tangled with McDyess in a scrum that saw both big men hit the floor. The Magic needed more from their first-team All-NBA center.
Turkoglu had a chance to win it for Orlando at the end but his runner in the lane rimmed out. It would have been interesting had it gone in, since he appeared to have committed an offensive foul by plowing over Detroit's Jason Maxiell on his way to the hoop. But there was no call by the officiating crew.
The Magic are now in serious trouble. Only a handful of teams in NBA history have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. Plus, Orlando's confidence has to be shattered after losing at home against a Pistons team without Billups. The Magic might be able to regroup and steal one in Detroit. The Pistons have been known to let foes off the hook. But Orlando's chances of beating Detroit three straight (including two on the road) are practically nil.
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