- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons didn’t want to get off to another bad start.Richard Hamilton scored 25 points as top-seeded Detroit beat the fourth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers 98-87 last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.The Pistons lost the opening game of the playoffs to Orlando and were forced to rally to be just the seventh team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-1.Allen Iverson, who led the league in scoring during the first round, had 27 points on 8-for-21 shooting for the 76ers. He averaged 34.8 points in the first round against Charlotte.Game 2 is tomorrow night in Detroit.Detroit was in control for much of the game against the Sixers, but it was never comfortable.That was especially true when Chauncey Billups left the game with a sprained left ankle after his 24th point gave the Pistons a 77-70 lead with about 10 minutes left. Billups scored 77 points in the final two games of the first-round series against the Magic.The Sixers scored consecutive baskets to pull within three — the closest they had been since early in the second quarter — but Detroit rookie Mehmet Okur scored six straight points to give the Pistons the cushion they needed.Philadelphia could not get closer than seven points as the Pistons made just enough free throws to seal the win.The Pistons have not trailed in the second half of any of their last four games.Detroit’s bench, which led the league with 34.1 points a game during the regular season, was a force.Okur scored a playoff-high 16 while Tayshaun Prince and Corliss Williamson each had eight. Chucky Atkins, who replaced Billups, scored a basket for the first time since Game 5 against the Magic. Detroit starter Cliff Robinson scored 11.Philadelphia’s Derrick Coleman scored a playoff-high 21 points and reserve Greg Buckner added 11.The Sixers made most of their shots in the first half, but their turnovers were costly.Philadelphia made 56.3 percent of its shots, to Detroit’s 37.5 percent, but trailed 24-21 after the first quarter. The Pistons converted eight turnovers into eight points.Early in the second quarter, after Philadelphia took its second lead, Detroit scored nine straight points to take a 33-25 lead.At halftime, the Sixers were still making more than half their shots, but trailed 49-40 because the Pistons turned 13 turnovers into 16 points.Detroit went ahead 63-50 — its largest lead — midway through the third quarter, but began the fourth up just 73-66.Notes — Billups turned his ankle when he landed on the foot of 76ers guard Eric Snow and fell to the floor. … There was a 19-minute delay at the 7:51 mark of the first quarter because the overhead lights at The Palace went out. “A breaker was tripped, just like what happens in a house,” Pistons spokesman Matt Dobek said. … Detroit’s local television network lost its video and audio signal during the power outage, but play-by-play announcer George Blaha continued to call the action via telephone. ESPN and Philadelphia’s television network did not have their broadcast interrupted. … Iverson and Detroit’s Ben Wallace earned spots on the All-NBA second team on Wednesday. Last year, Iverson was on the second team and Wallace was on the third. … Teams that win Game 1 win 78.7 percent of seven-game series. … Detroit and Philadelphia tied their season series 2-2.

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