Pistons 98, Magic 67

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Detroit Pistons have made a choice: Rather than becoming the third No. 1 seed to lose in the first round, they’d rather join the small number of teams to have made an improbable comeback from a 3-1 deficit.

Richard Hamilton was one of six Pistons in double figures with 24 points, and the Pistons held Tracy McGrady to 19 in defeating the Orlando Magic 98-67 Wednesday night in Game 5 of their first-round series.

Orlando, the eighth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, leads the best-of-seven series 3-2. Game 6 is Friday night.

The Pistons are hoping to become just the seventh team - and the first since Miami in 1997 - to win a series after trailing 3-1.

The Miami Heat in 1999 and Seattle in 1993 are the only top-seeded teams to lose in the first round of the playoffs since the NBA went to a 16-team format in 1984.

Detroit rookie Tayshaun Prince scored a career-high 15 points and matched a career-high with six rebounds. Ben Wallace had 14 points and 21 rebounds, Chauncey Billups scored 15, Mehmet Okur 11 and Jon Barry 10.

McGrady entered the game as the highest scorer in the playoffs, averaging 36.3 points after four games, but he shot just 8-of-20. It was only the second time in McGrady’s last 56 games that he didn’t score at least 20.

Orlando’s Gordan Giricek scored 12 and Drew Gooden added 10.

The Magic never led and made just 32 percent of their shots.

As McGrady walked off the court, he responded to taunting fans by flashing three fingers, then two, to signify his team’s lead in the series.

The Magic have not advanced in the playoffs since 1996, when Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway swept Detroit in the first round before eventually losing to Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Pistons advanced last season for the first time since 1991.

McGrady wants to make it at least to the second round for the first time in his career to distance himself from Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, who has been knocked out of the first round the past six seasons and trails the Los Angeles Lakers 3-2 in their first-round series.

Orlando pulled to 59-51 - its first single-digit deficit in nearly 20 minutes - midway through the third quarter. But the Pistons responded with 12 straight points to take a 73-51 lead and remove any doubt about the outcome.

Early in the fourth quarter with the Magic down by 24, McGrady’s point total of 17 was matched by Prince and Michael Curry.

Hamilton, who has struggled in Orlando during the series, continued a trend of playing great at home.

He made more than half of his shots and scored 58 points in Games 1-2, then missed more than two-thirds of his shots and had just 26 points in Games 3-4.

Hamilton scored his 15th point early in the second quarter while the Magic were stuck on 13.

The Pistons had a double-digit lead after the first quarter for the fourth straight game. A 10-2 run gave Detroit a 20-8 lead, and it began the second quarter ahead 26-13.

Wallace had six points on three dunks and eight rebounds, one more than Orlando’s entire team. He also blocked Shawn Kemp’s 3-point shot into the fourth row for a shot clock violation with a few seconds left in the first quarter.

The Pistons outscored Orlando 15-2 over the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second to take a 37-15 lead.

The Magic went on a 15-4 to pull within 11 points. But the Pistons pulled away again.

Notes: Detroit coach Rick Carlisle chose to not play Corliss Williamson after he averaged 18.8 minutes and 9.3 points over the first four games. … The Pistons made 23 of 28 free throws and the Magic were 14-of-17 at the line.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Orlando
T. McGrady T. McGrady
8-20,  19 Pts
8 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Detroit
B. Wallace B. Wallace
6-9,  14 Pts
21 Rebs, 0 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists