Too bad a disputed play is what will be most remembered.
Chauncey Billups made the 3-pointer in question at the end of the third quarter and Detroit went on to beat Orlando 100-93 Monday night, taking a 2-0 lead in their second-round series.
“It’s tough to be on the other end of that play,” said Billups, who scored 28 points. “But I’ll take it.”
Billups officially made the shot with 0.5 seconds left in the third after the clock froze at 4.8 seconds.
The possession started with 5.1 seconds as Billups dribbled in the backcourt and it appeared to take 5.2 seconds using replays the officials weren’t allowed to use during a delay lasting several minutes.
The shot put Detroit ahead 78-76.
Lead official Steve Javie declined to be interviewed by a pool reporter, and ignored another reporter at the scorer’s table shouting to speak with him after the game ended.
“They had to estimate how much time (was left) and they estimated 4.6 seconds,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That’s almost funny.
“What can you do? They were put in a very tough situation on that call.”
Even though TNT—a broadcast partner of the NBA—had the ability later in the game to show a real-time replay with a clock superimposed on the screen, the league’s replay rules don’t allow for reviewing a play to determine when the clock started.
“Steve Javie told me that with the technology they have, they should be able to go over and look at that,” Van Gundy said. “They did not have that available. He was frustrated by that—probably not quite as much as us.”
The Magic still had a chance to win after trailing by 14 in the first half.
Orlando had the ball down by two points late in the game, but Rashard Lewis missed a running scoop shot with 14 seconds left, Dwight Howard just missed on a putback and Hedo Turkoglu couldn’t grab the offensive rebound.
Billups then made two free throws to put Detroit ahead by five points with 10.9 seconds left, sealing the win.
Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Orlando.
The Magic could’ve headed home publicly bitter about a call that went against them, spoiling some strong performances that went all for naught. But they were proud of their play and refused to blame the officials—or an unfortunate rule—for the loss.
“Too many times, our players’ resolve and mental toughness gets questioned,” Van Gundy said. “We bounced back from being down in the first half and from that call.
“We hung in there good, but we didn’t make plays down the stretch and the 19 turnovers killed us.”
Howard bounced back from a lackluster game with 22 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks. He had just 12 points and a career playoff-low eight rebounds when Detroit won the series opener by 19 points.
“I tried to be more aggressive on the glass,” Howard said. “They can’t double you there.”
Jameer Nelson scored 22 points, making five 3-pointers, before fouling out with 1:23 left in the game, hacking Hamilton and putting him on the line down by two points.
Lewis overcame an awful start to score 20 points. Maurice Evans had 13 points and Turkoglu added 12, putting each of the Magic’s starters in double figures.
Detroit had a balanced attack, too.
Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince scored 17 points apiece, and Prince added 10 rebounds and five assists. Jason Maxiell was a threat as a shooter for the second straight game, adding 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting.
The Magic got back to their game of driving and kicking for 3-pointers, making seven of their 11 3s during a 36-point third quarter that got them into the game.
“That’s a scary part of playing this team,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.
But Turkoglu, Lewis and Howard combined for 17 of Orlando’s 19 turnovers, ending many promising possessions with wild passes and bad hands.
The score was tied at 29 after the first quarter, then Detroit outscored Orlando by 10 in the second period to earn a cushion at halftime.
Orlando quickly got back into the game early in the third, only to be demoralized at the end of the quarter by the timer’s slow trigger finger.
“It wasn’t deflating,” Howard insisted. “But I thought time was already out. I was watching it like, `Wow, the clock hasn’t moved yet.’ But we had a lot of chances after that.”
Howard started the game with his left thumb taped after bruising it in Game 1, but removed the makeshift brace in the first half because he said it affected his grip on the ball. … The Pistons have won nine straight playoff games against Orlando—including last year’s sweep in the first round and a rally from a 3-1 deficit in the opening round of the 2003 playoffs—to trail only four winning streaks by one team over another in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers beat Seattle 12 times in a row, starting in the 1980 playoffs through until losing in 1989. … Faces in the crowd included Hall of Fame musician Bob Seger, who was wished a happy birthday when he was shown on the videoboards.