ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The Detroit Pistons would like a little downtime, something they haven’t enjoyed since the All-Star break in February.
They know how to get it, too.
Detroit needs to sweep Orlando and hope the Miami-Chicago series extends into next week.
“I would love it,” guard Chauncey Billups said Friday. “I think it would be great for our guys to get some time off before the next series. I think we’ll be thinking about that at the start of the game, trying to get the win so we can be blessed enough to get some time off.
“I like to play, but at this point in the season, rest is very, very vital — even if it’s a week or 10 days.”
The Pistons, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, have beaten the Magic handily the first three games and essentially outplayed them at every position.
If the trend continues in Game 4 on Saturday, the Pistons will have their first postseason series sweep since 1990, when the “Bad Boys” swept Indiana in the first round en route to a second consecutive NBA title.
“I don’t think any of us really care about what’s happened since 1990 and all of that,” center Chris Webber said. “We just have to try to win and close this out. If we do that, we’ll change history. If we don’t, then we’ll be in for a long series. We need to make sure we handle our business and close it out.”
Detroit has been good at closing out opponents in the postseason in recent years. Since the 2003 playoffs began, the franchise is 11-1 in series-clinching games. The only loss came at San Antonio in Game 7 of the 2005 finals.
“When we feel like we can get the series over with, we’ve been very aggressive and taken care of business,” Billups said. “I’m expecting and hoping the same thing (Saturday).”
Coach Flip Saunders said his veteran team seems to sense when opponents feel defeated, and then feed off it.
“Every time you’re in a close-out-type situation, there’s a point in the game where the other team starts questioning themselves,” Saunders said. “It’s human nature. Our guys have a pretty good sense of feeling that when that happens, we seem to jump on that.”
The Magic have lost all seven meetings with Detroit this season and have little hope of changing the outcome of the series, especially since no team in NBA history has overcome a 3-0 deficit.
But Orlando would like to prolong the series—and not let the Pistons celebrate a sweep here.
“It’s tough,” Magic guard Grant Hill said. “We’ve lost and really haven’t played our game. We haven’t played a good game, and it’s disappointing. But we still have a game, and that’s the most important thing. It would be great to at least get a win and take this back to Detroit.
“You have to tip your hat to them. They’re taking us out of our comfort zone, making things difficult for us, capitalizing on our mistakes and just playing better than us basically.”
Billups has been better than Jameer Nelson at the point. Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have been more effective than Hill and Hedo Turkoglu. And Rasheed Wallace and Webber have dominated Dwight Howard and Tony Battie in the post.
The Pistons have focused on taking leading scorer Howard out of the game, doubling him nearly every time he touches the ball and rotating Wallace, Webber, Antonio McDyess and Dale Davis into the game to cover—and often foul— Orlando’s All-Star center.
The scheme has worked to perfection.
Howard is 13-of-27 from the field, getting most of his baskets in transition and following offensive rebounds, and just 6-of-16 from the free throw line.
Even when Howard has been able to pass out of double teams, Hill, Turkoglu and others have mostly failed to knock down open shots. Orlando is 8-of-21 from 3-point range.
Without Howard and without much help, the Magic find themselves in a precarious position.
“I think the game will tell us a lot about our guys, collectively and individually, as to how we’re going to compete,” coach Brian Hill said. “Is everybody going to be out there playing with a sense of desperation? Or are some guys going to have a little bit more of a nonchalant attitude like the season is over? I think you find out a lot about guys when they’re forced to perform in situations like this.”
Detroit already knows what to expect in this situation: a victory Saturday, a rare series sweep and then maybe some downtime.
“We’re going to get to relax Sunday and Monday, hopefully, if we go in and do what we’ve got to do,” Wallace said.