Lewis, Orlando’s big offseason acquisition, scored a career playoff-high 33 points and the Magic beat the Detroit Pistons 111-86 on Wednesday night to gain a little momentum in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Detroit still leads the series 2-1, though they suffered a tough injury. All-Star guard Chauncey Billups strained his right hamstring early in the first quarter and didn’t return. The Pistons were hopeful he could play in Game 4 Saturday in Orlando, but planned to re-evaluate him again Thursday.
Lewis was shooting 36 percent from the field in the first two games of the series, including 2-of-12 from 3-point range. He shot 11-of-15 on Wednesday, 5-of-6 from behind the arc, and scored 12 of Orlando’s last 14 points as the Magic took a 54-42 halftime lead.
“I made my first couple and really felt like I was going to have it going tonight,” said Lewis, who came to the Magic in a trade with Seattle. “I know my 3 ball hasn’t been falling this whole series.
“Detroit’s obviously been a team that’s been beating us the past couple of years,” Lewis said. “The main focus is we don’t want to dig ourselves too deep of a hole. We want to try to win our home games, take the series back to Detroit 2-2.”
Richard Hamilton scored 24 points for Detroit and Tayshaun Prince had 22, while Rasheed Wallace scored 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting. With Billups out, rookie Rodney Stuckey stepped up big for the Pistons. He scored 19 points—nine in the second quarter—but he didn’t bring the same floor presence as Billups, Detroit’s steady leader and clutch 3-point threat. Billups was averaging 17.5 points in the postseason and had 28 against the Magic in Game 2.
“I’m concerned because (Billups is) our quarterback; he runs our team,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “You saw our first two games. He’s been a huge part of why we’ve been successful—that matchup has been huge for us.”
The Pistons lost Billups just four minutes into the game when he drove to the basket and got tangled up with Jameer Nelson. Nelson’s leg caught Billups’ foot, and the Pistons guard fell hard to the court.
The Magic had lost nine straight playoff games to the Pistons, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history. That dated to 2003, when Detroit rallied from a 3-1 deficit to advance, and included a 4-0 sweep in the first round last season.
“It felt real good, finally getting a chance to beat those guys,” Howard said. “The main thing is we played the way we know how to play—run and try to cut the turnovers down. We can beat anybody.”
Immediately after Billups was injured Orlando went on an 18-4 run in under six minutes to take a 24-6 lead, by far its largest of the series to that point. The Magic held a one-point lead in Game 1 and were up by four in Game 2. Nelson scored eight points in the run and had 12 in the first quarter on 4-of-6 shooting.
The Pistons drew within 73-69 at the end of the third quarter despite going nearly four minutes without a field goal. Besides a jumper by Wallace, Stuckey, Hamilton and Prince scored all 27 points for Detroit in the third quarter, while Orlando went 6-of-21 from the field.
“We gave ourselves chances,” Saunders said. “We made a lot of runs after we fell behind.”
Detroit failed to score a field goal in the opening 4:27 of the fourth quarter until Hamilton made a layup. By then the Magic were ahead 87-73—helped by a Lewis 3-pointer and putback—and the Pistons would get no closer.
“I said when we left the Palace that if we did not get off to a good start and let the crowd get into the game we were going to have to fight back,” Prince said. “We did a good job of fighting back, but against a team that shoots 3s very well you can’t dig yourself in that big of a hole and try and come back.”
Orlando finally found a way to take care of the ball. The Magic had 11 turnovers, the same as Detroit in Game 3 and a vast improvement over the 19 they committed in Game 2.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy joked before the game that Orlando would probably be “the first one under the new rule to have a basket disallowed” if the NBA changed its replay procedures following Billups’ controversial third-quarter 3-pointer on Monday. The league said Tuesday the basket shouldn’t have counted, but the referees had no choice. … Detroit’s 16 first-quarter points set a 2008 team playoff low, while Orlando’s 30 in the period set a Pistons’ opponent high for a quarter. … The Pistons were the only playoff team that hadn’t given up 100 points in a game.