Billups has 43 points and 19 assists in two games, taking advantage of mismatches, avoiding double teams and finding open teammates.
He’s one of the main reasons the Pistons have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Thursday night in Orlando, and the Magic believe guarding Billups will be key.
“He’s a tough matchup for everybody,” Orlando guard Jameer Nelson said. “There’s not a guy in the league that can say he shut Chauncey Billups down. You just want to try to make it tough for him, try to get him out of his comfort zone and make it tough for him.”
Billups averaged 17 points and 7.2 assists this season and shot 88 percent from the free throw line. He’s been even more of a scoring factor against the Magic, averaging 24.5 points and 6.8 assists in six games while making 42 of 48 free throws.
Billups has seemingly been able to score at will against Nelson, who is several inches shorter, about a dozen pounds lighter and maybe a step slower than his counterpart.
Hill started off Game 1 guarding Billups, but that left Nelson covering 6-7 shooting guard Richard Hamilton—another mismatch.
Nelson ended up on Billups for part of that game and eventually fouled out.
“I don’t take it as a disrespect to me,” Nelson said. “I need help. I’ve been guarding taller guys my whole life. It’s not just the fact he’s taller or weighs more. It’s not just height. He’s been here before.”
Some think Brian Hill should change up his starting lineup—stick Arroyo or Dooling on Billups for Game 3—but the coach said that won’t happen.
“I don’t think you shake up your lineup at this time in the season,” Hill said. “You go with the guys that have brought you to where you are. It wasn’t like we lost two 20-point games up in Detroit. We had ourselves in position late in the games to have an opportunity to win. We just have to play a little bit harder and a little bit better.”
Will that be enough?
Maybe not. The Magic have dropped all six meetings with Detroit this season, losing by an average of nearly nine points.
They hope to reverse the trend Thursday, but the Pistons were better on the road than they were at home during the regular season.
“To win on the road, you can’t beat yourself, and we don’t turn the ball over,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “That’s the biggest factor.”
One thing Orlando has in its favor: the Pistons haven’t swept a playoff series since 1990. They also have lost six of their last seven Game 3s.
“We know we can beat these guys,” Orlando’s All-Star center Dwight Howard said. “Nobody else believes in us. We know what we’ve got and what we can do.”
The Magic have decided they need to be more physical with the Pistons. They want Howard, who missed eight free throws in the series opener and was sick in Game 2, to assert himself in the post. They want Hill and Hedo Turkoglu to drive to the basket more frequently.
And they want to play tighter defense on Billups and Rasheed Wallace, who was 6-of-11 from 3-point range in the first two games and helped the Pistons build early leads.
“That’s one of the things coach talked about—trying to be a little bit more physical, trying to hit them first as opposed to them hitting us first,” Hill said.
It starts with Billups.
But the Magic also realize they can’t foul him because he’s made 16 of 18 free throws in the series.
“We’ve got to be smart, play every possession,” Grant Hill said. “We know what we need to do in terms of trying to stop them. It’s a little easier said than done. But we’ve got to go out there and do the best we can.”