Fair Currently: Orlando, FL
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EDT Fri May 2, 2003
  • TV: ESPN

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Magic lead 3-2.

It took until the fifth game of their playoff series with the Orlando Magic for the Detroit Pistons to show why they are the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Looking to avoid elimination in the first-round series and force a seventh game, the Pistons visit the Magic for Game 6.

Detroit played poorly in losing three of the first four games, but facing an early playoff exit in Game 5 on Wednesday, the Pistons put together their best performance of the postseason.

Ben Wallace had 21 rebounds, 14 points, four steals and three blocks, and Richard Hamilton scored 24 points as the Pistons won 98-67.

Detroit had a double-digit lead after the first quarter, and outscored Orlando 25-10 in the fourth. The Pistons held the Magic to 32 percent shooting.

“We’ve had our struggles on both ends of the court and we finally put together what I thought was 48 minutes of really hard basketball,” Detroit coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to take the momentum down to Orlando and carry it over into Game 6 on Friday.”

Six teams have won a series after trailing 3-1. Just two top-seeded teams— Miami in 1999 and Seattle in 1994—have lost in the first round of the playoffs since the NBA went to a 16-team format in 1984. Both of those upsets occurred when the league played best-of-5 game series in the opening round.

Tracy McGrady is averaging 32.8 points in the series for eighth-seeded Orlando, but on Wednesday was held to 19 on 8-for-20 shooting.

“This is the worst game that we played in the series, and the best game they have played,” McGrady said. “But the pressure is still on them. There’s no reason to get discouraged. They’re still playing catch-up.”

In order for the Pistons to send the series back home for Game 7 on Sunday, they’ll have to do something they haven’t done in six years—win a playoff game on the road.

Detroit has lost 12 straight postseason games away from home, with its last victory coming April 27, 1997, in Atlanta.

“It’s ride or die right now,” Hamilton said. “They’re going to have a lot of confidence going into their own building on Friday. We’ve got to jump on them again and take that away from them.”

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Pistons - 50-32, 1st seed. Magic - 42-40, 8th seed.

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

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 21.8 ppg; Wallace, 19.2 rpg; Billups, 4.2 apg. Magic - McGrady, 32.8 ppg; Gooden, 12.0 rpg; Darrell Armstrong, 4.6 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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