- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2003

PHILADELPHIA — Chauncey Billups’ shooting touch was as good as his prediction.

“During the timeout before overtime, I told them, ‘I’m about to take this game over,’” said Billups, who scored nine of his 28 points in the extra period to lead Detroit to a series-ending 93-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers last night.

The Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1991, the year after winning their second straight NBA title. Detroit will play the defending conference champion New Jersey Nets beginning tomorrow afternoon for a berth in the NBA Finals.

Billups gave the Pistons a 92-89 lead with 15.2 seconds left in overtime on his third 3-pointer of the extra session. He scored Detroit’s first six points of OT on 3-pointers.

“I was very, very aggressive in overtime, trying to look for my shot,” he said. “I turned it on. My mentality changed.”

After Allen Iverson missed a driving layup for Philadelphia with 10 seconds to go, Chucky Atkins made a free throw to clinch it for the Pistons with six seconds left.

The Pistons, who set an NBA record by going 8-0 in overtime games during the regular season, improved to 2-0 in overtime in the playoffs.

“I can’t say enough about our team and what they’ve been able to do,” Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve had injuries, situations and everybody on our roster has been instrumental to us getting to this point.”

Iverson, who was late arriving at the arena because he supposedly was stuck in a traffic jam, scored 38 points — including six in the row in overtime to tie the game after Detroit went ahead 89-83.

Richard Hamilton scored 19 points, Corliss Williamson had 17 and Tayshaun Prince added 14 for the Pistons, who had lost 14 of 15 road playoff games.

Derrick Coleman had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Kenny Thomas added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

“They got it done and we didn’t,” Iverson said. “We couldn’t catch a break, and we put ourselves in a bad situation with fouls.”

The Sixers had a chance to win it in regulation after Billups made two free throws to tie it 81-81 with 14.6 seconds left. Iverson brought the ball upcourt but couldn’t get a shot off as he was guarded by Prince. He passed to Coleman too late for a buzzer-beating attempt.

“If I shot the ball, he would have blocked it,” said Iverson, who has never made a “walk-off” shot to end a game. “It’s not supposed to come down to that.”

After Prince’s layup gave Detroit an 89-83 lead midway through overtime, Iverson scored six straight on a short jumper and two driving layups to tie it.

Detroit missed twice on its next possession, and Iverson missed a 20-footer with 37 seconds left to set up Billups’ final 3-pointer.

“We have a lot of options at the end of games, but I’m the guy more often,” said Billups, Detroit’s leading scorer in the playoffs.

Iverson didn’t arrive at the First Union Center until 32 minutes before the scheduled starting time of 7:30 p.m. But he had no problem getting on track early, hitting five of his first six shots and scoring 21 in the first half.

But Iverson missed seven straight at one point in the second half and 13 of his last 18. He finished 14-for-33.

“It wasn’t a distraction, it was a disappointment,” Sixers coach Larry Brown said of Iverson’s lateness. “He played his heart out.”

Billups was 6-for-18, including 5-for-13 from beyond the arc, and made all 11 of his free throws. Ben Wallace had 10 points, 18 rebounds and five steals.

Keith Van Horn again disappeared offensively for the Sixers, scoring just two points on only four shots. Van Horn was Philadelphia’s second-leading scorer in the regular season at 15.9 but averaged just 7.8 against Detroit.

“We definitely need other guys to step up and contribute offensively,” Iverson said, refusing to single out Van Horn.

A 14-2 run by the Pistons tied the game 30-30 with 4:24 left in the first half. But the Sixers then outscored Detroit 14-6 to take a 44-36 halftime lead. Greg Buckner hit a 3-pointer and Coleman got a fast-break slam just before the quarter ended.

Philadelphia opened a 20-8 lead in the first quarter with a 16-0 run. Iverson scored six straight to start the run on a 14-footer and two layups. Three-pointers by Aaron McKie and Coleman sandwiched around a 20-footer by Iverson closed it. Detroit went scoreless for a stretch of 5:58 before Hamilton made a turnaround jumper.

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