AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Since the Detroit Pistons don’t have a spectacular scorer, they get the ball to the man of the moment.
In Game 2 against Philadelphia, that player was Tayshaun Prince—again.
Prince, the seldom-used rookie who has thrived in the playoffs, scored seven straight points at the end of regulation and the start of overtime as Detroit defeated the 76ers 104-97 Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in their second-round series.
“Of course I was surprised,” Prince said. “But this is a team that doesn’t have a top star on it. Whenever a guy gets going, the coaches and the guy on the bench say, ‘Let’s get this guy the ball.’ It’s just a matter of who has the good feeling in the game, and in the overtime and just before overtime, that guy was me.”
Allen Iverson scored 31 points, but with a 92-90 lead and 15.1 seconds left in regulation he missed two free throws to give the Pistons a chance at an improbable win.
“I take the blame for this one,” Iverson said. “If I made one or two free throws, we’re going home happy. Put this one on me.”
Detroit’s Chauncey Billups missed the game with a sprained ankle after scoring 101 points in three games. He was replaced by Chucky Atkins, who had scored just 23 points in eight playoff games. Atkins matched that total while playing 44 minutes.
Prince, who scored 20 points in Game 7 against Orlando in the first round, made a difficult spinning 4-footer with 4.2 seconds left to force overtime. He scored the first five points in the extra session on a layup and a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired.
Atkins made a 3-pointer with 2:07 left to give Detroit, which set an NBA record by going 8-0 in overtime, a 100-93 lead.
Iverson said he was not surprised to see Prince and Atkins play so well.
“They don’t just grab guys off the street and put them on NBA rosters,” he said.
The series now moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Sunday.
It’s safe to say Prince will not be spending as much time on the bench as he did during most of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.
The native of Compton, Calif., appeared in just 42 games after being the 23rd pick in the draft out of Kentucky. He averaged 3.3 points in 10 minutes a game.
Prince didn’t play in the opening game of the playoffs against Orlando, scored two points in Games 2-3 and despite slowing down Tracy McGrady, didn’t play in Game 4.
After Detroit coach Rick Carlisle was criticized for keeping Prince on the bench, he scored 15 points in Game 5 and 20 points in Game 7 as the Pistons became the seventh team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-1.
Prince played a career-high 39 minutes Thursday night.
“When you don’t play much, there’s a hungriness inside of you,” Prince said. “You want to bring something to the team.
“At first, it was just defense against Orlando. But now I’ve been able to help on the other end.”
Iverson wasn’t a one-man team, either.
The Sixers came back from a 14-point deficit midway through the second quarter, and Iverson made two free throws with 1:40 left to give Philadelphia its first lead since the end of the third quarter. Snow’s jumper on their next possession put Philadelphia ahead 92-89.
Hamilton made one of two free throws—continuing Detroit’s poor night at the line as the Pistons missed 14 of 35 attempts. But Iverson gave Detroit a chance, with each of his attempts hitting the rim and bouncing out.
The Pistons had no timeouts left, and the ball eventually got to Prince on the right wing. He backed in against McKie, avoided Snow’s swipe at the ball and twisted his body around before releasing a soft floater that was all net as the crowd went crazy.
Snow airballed a long 3-pointer at the end of regulation as Philadelphia could not get the ball into Iverson’s hands.
“I was yelling for Allen to shoot more,” Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said.
Before Billups was signed as a free agent last summer, Atkins started 137 games over two seasons and averaged at least 12 points. Atkins averaged 11.3 points in 10 playoff games last season.
Atkins ran Detroit’s offensive effectively in the first quarter, leading it to a 30-25 lead, and made several key baskets, including shots in the finalseconds of the first and third quarters.
Robinson missed six shots after going 6-of-7 in the first quarter. … Detroit missed eight of 10 foul shots in the first half. … Atkins scored 22 points for his previous playoff-high in Game 5 of the second round last yearagainst Boston.