Cloudy Currently: Auburn Hills, MI
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  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Wed Apr 30, 2003

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Magic lead 3-1.

The Detroit Pistons look to avoid an embarrassing first-round playoff exit when they host the Orlando Magic at The Palace of Auburn Hills for Game 5.

Having lost the last two games in Orlando, the Pistons are in danger of becoming just the third top-seeded team in NBA history to lose in the opening round. The only other No. 1 seeds to suffer that fate were the Miami Heat in 1999 and the Seattle Supersonics in 1994.

“It would be a huge pride buster,” Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said. “To lose in the first round would kind of take away from the season we had.”

Detroit would have to overcome some long odds to make a comeback in this series, as only six teams have ever won a series after trailing 3-1. The last team to do it was Miami, which came back to defeat New York in the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals.

“We still feel like we can beat this team,” Billups said. “We’re in a fight for our season.

“It’s about pride right now. We’ve worked too hard and had too good of a season for it to be over in a week and a half.”

While pride may be a factor, Detroit’s chances are more likely to depend on the play of Orlando superstar Tracy McGrady, who has averaged 36.3 points over the first four games of the series. McGrady had 27 points, nine assists and five steals on Sunday to lead the Magic to a 100-92 win.

“We want to play like it’s an even series right now, so we just want to close out this game,” said McGrady. “We don’t want to give them any type of hope. Right now we have their backs against the wall and we just have to go ahead and close this out in Detroit.”

Getting past the Pistons would be a major accomplishment for the eighth-seeded Magic, who have been eliminated in the first round the past three seasons. Orlando has managed to overcome Detroit’s top-ranked defense to shoot 46 percent from the floor in the series, compared to 38 percent for the Pistons.

“They are playing basketball and we are passing and standing around,” Detroit’s Chucky Atkins said. “We have been doing it all series.

“It isn’t over until they win four games, but if we don’t play better than that or play basketball then yeah, it’s over. We haven’t even started playing basketball yet. I am sick of it.”

Playoff disappointments are nothing new for the Pistons, who lost as a No. 2 seed in the second round to Boston last season. Detroit has lost in the first round in five of its last six playoff appearances, and has not advanced past the second round since being swept by Chicago in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.

“We’ve got to respond at home and we’ve got to get another opportunity to come back here,” Detroit coach Rick Carlisle said. ”(The Magic) did what they set out to do and defended their home court, and we’re going to have to do that on Wednesday.”

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Magic - 8th seed. Pistons - 1st seed.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Magic - F Gordan Giricek, F Drew Gooden, C Andrew DeClercq, G McGrady, G Jacque Vaughn. Pistons - F Michael Curry, F Clifford Robinson, C Ben Wallace, G Richard Hamilton, G Billups.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Magic - McGrady, 36.3 ppg; Gooden, 11.3 rpg; Armstrong, 5.0 apg. Pistons - Hamilton, 21.3 ppg; Wallace, 18.8 rpg; Billups, 4.3 apg.

REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 2-1. Detroit never trailed in the second half of its only game at home, winning 98-88 on Feb. 13. The Magic had a 49-35 rebounding edge in their lone win, and the Pistons had a combined plus-18 advantage on the boards in their two victories.

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