AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—With his expressionless face sitting atop sunken shoulders and limp legs, Tracy McGrady stared at the floor in dismay.
McGrady didn’t look up at the scoreboard that showed he again would be going home after the first round, nor did he gaze at the fans who taunted him in a raucous, sold-out arena.
The Pistons became just the seventh team in NBA history to advance after falling behind 3-1 in a series, giving McGrady all the time he needs to rest his sleepy eyes. For the fourth straight season, he’s done in one.
“Before, I felt like we had to play almost perfect to have a chance. But this time, we were up 3-1 and it was right there for us to take,” said McGrady, who scored 21 points on 7-of-24 shooting.
“We did it with a lot of pride,” Billups said. “Everybody kind of gave up on us and thought it was over.”
The Pistons put an end to Orlando’s hopes of advancing for the first time since 1996, when Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway led the Magic to a first-round sweep of Detroit.
Orlando had its only lead after scoring the game’s first basket.
The Pistons made nine of their first 11 shots to take a 20-8 lead midway through the first quarter.
After Orlando pulled to 31-30 early in the second quarter, Detroit went on a 14-4 run to take command for good. The Magic cut their deficit to nine early in the third quarter, but the Pistons turned the game into a rout with a 18-4 burst.
Billups, who scored a career-high 40 in Game 6, made 11 of 19 shots and all 12 of his free throws.
Billups, a free-agent acquisition from Minnesota, and Hamilton, who Detroit obtained in a trade with Washington for Jerry Stackhouse, have advanced in the playoffs for the first time.
“We can’t celebrate too long,” Billups said.
The Pistons will play Philadelphia in the second round beginning Tuesday night.
McGrady, who led the NBA in scoring during the regular season, has been knocked out of the first round the past three years in Orlando after it happened during his final season in Toronto.
“To try to put this series on T-Mac would be wrong,” Orlando coach Doc Rivers said.
McGrady was cocky and confident after scoring 89 points in Games 1-2, saying he couldn’t be contained. But his demeanor was the complete opposite on Sunday.
“The better team won,” McGrady said.
McGrady again had difficulty with Prince—a seldom-used rookie who averaged just 10 minutes during the regular season and sat out 40 games—and the NBA’s top defense.
“I’m only human,” McGrady said. “I’m not going to play great every night. Fatigue is definitely a factor.”
“You can’t think that T-Mac is Superman every night,” Gooden said.
Prince’s insertion into the lineup was one of the most critical moves in the series made by Detroit coach Rick Carlisle. After not playing in Game 1, Prince made McGrady’s life difficult in Games 2-3 and set a career-high with 15 in Game 5.
Carlisle’s predictability and inflexibility were the subject of criticism in Detroit when it appeared the Pistons were about to be eliminated. But Carlisle, last year’s NBA Coach of the Year, refused to say he felt vindicated.
“This isn’t about me,” Carlisle said. “This is about the team. This is a great tribute to what I believe is a true team.”
The Pistons won Game 5 by 31 points, and won the next two by 15 to knock the Magic out in the first round for the third year in a row.
The Pistons have advanced in the playoffs for consecutive seasons for thefirst time since they did it five straight times from 1987-91.
McGrady finished fourth in the MVP voting and Wallace, who received one first-place vote, finished eighth. … The other teams that advanced after trailing 3-1 were: Boston (1968), Los Angeles (1970), Washington (1979), Boston (1981), Houston (1995) and Miami (1997). … The Pistons made 54.8 percent of their shots and held the Magic to 41.8 percent shooting. … The Pistons are4-0 when Anita Baker sings the national anthem.