Prince had the best all-around postseason game of his brief NBA career Thursday night, scoring 24 points with a career-high eight assists and nine rebounds to lift Detroit to a 91-77 series-clinching victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of their first-round series.
“He probably was the most valuable player in the series,” Pistons coach Larry Brown said.
The Pistons now move on to face the New Jersey Nets, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions who swept Detroit in the conference finals last season.
Game 1 is Monday night.
“We’re a much better team than we were last year, and they’re about the same,” said Chauncey Billups, who had 19 points and six assists. “But that same team was good enough to make it to the NBA finals the last two years.”
Detroit took control with a 30-point third quarter after scoring just 39 points in the first half and leading by seven.
“We fought hard all the way, so this doesn’t diminish what we’ve done,” Redd said. “We just ran into a better team.”
At this time last season, Prince went from sitting on the bench to playing a key role in Detroit’s run to the conference finals.
He followed that up with a solid second season—and yet another strong postseason. The lanky small forward averaged 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and two blocks against Milwaukee.
“He was probably the X-factor,” Bucks coach Terry Porter said. “He plays off the other players really well. In the series, he was really at the top of his game.
While the Bucks focused on Billups and Hamilton on the perimeter and Rasheed Wallace inside, Prince often was left alone.
“I’ve got to make them pay,” he said.
Prince shot 11-of-15 in the series finale, and ranks among the top shooters in the playoffs.
“I was able to get some wide-open shots because of the double-teams,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was a go-to guy. I was just feeding off everybody else.”
After a sluggish start, Detroit earned its first cushion with a 9-0 run for a 37-28 lead late in the second quarter. An 8-0 run in the third gave Detroit a 49-36 lead, and the Pistons went ahead by 17 before taking a 69-54 lead into the final quarter.
Milwaukee did little more than trade baskets in the fourth quarter and never mounted a comeback.
“We knew they were going to come out fighting and they did,” Billups said. “But we wore them down and took over.”
Last year in the first round, Detroit became just the seventh of 150 NBA teams to win a series after trailing 3-1 when it rallied against Orlando.
The Pistons didn’t give Milwaukee a chance to pull off the same feat, but they didn’t seem to be motivated to play until late in the first half.
It took Detroit six minutes to take the lead, and the Pistons were ahead 24-22 after the first quarter. Following a late spurt, the Pistons led 39-32 athalftime as both teams made less than 39 percent of their shots.
Detroit’s Corliss Williamson, who has been slowed by a sore knee and elbow, did not play. Brown said Williamson would be ready to play the Nets. … In three playoff series, Detroit is 9-2 against the Bucks. … Faces in thecrowd included Detroit Tigers Ivan Rodriguez and Rondell White.