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Published: Thursday, 4/24/2003

Pistons even series

BY DON EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit's Cliff Robinson battles Orlando's Drew Gooden last night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. The Pistons, who led by as many as 22 points in the second quarter, never trailed in the game. Detroit's Cliff Robinson battles Orlando's Drew Gooden last night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. The Pistons, who led by as many as 22 points in the second quarter, never trailed in the game.
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -The Detroit Pistons vowed they would do a better job of defending against Tracy McGrady in Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series with Orlando.

The Central Division champions all but said they might even resort to gang-tackling the league's leading scorer if necessary to limit his points.

A more physical defensive strategy against McGrady didn't quite work the way the Pistons had planned.

McGrady poured in a career-playoff high 46 points but the Pistons pulled out an 89-77 victory before a sellout crowd of 22,076 at The Palace.

“It worked out for us,'' Detroit Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our plan was to make McGrady work hard and take out their second scoring options.''

McGrady, who made 16 of 26 shots (4 of 9 3-pointers), met the challenge by improving upon his 43-point effort in Game 1 of the series. However, the 6-8 all-star guard ended up as the only player on the Magic roster to score in double figures. Andrew DeClercq was Orlando's second-leading scorer with nine points.

Detroit found balanced scoring with its offense. Richard Hamilton paced the Pistons with a team-high 30 points and was one of five players to finish in double figures. Chauncey Billups added 15 points while Corliss Williamson finished with 13. Clifford Robinson and Ben Wallace added 10 apiece.

“Orlando plays really hard and posed matchup nightmares,'' Carlisle said. “The key for us is we played really hard and we did what we needed to do to win.''

Even though McGrady seemed to score at will most of the night, there was a stretch midway through the third quarter when Pistons rookie Tayshaun Prince came off the bench for the first time in the playoffs and made his presence felt against McGrady.

Prince's defensive effort, which caused McGrady to force up a few shots that were well off the mark, helped the Pistons take a 70-61 lead into the fourth quarter.

“Tayshaun made a huge difference for us in the second half,'' Carlisle said. “His length is a factor against McGrady.

“Certainly he'll be a factor for us for the rest of the series.''

Prince, known for his scoring ability while at Kentucky, said he was ready when Carlisle called his number to match up defensively against one of the game's top scorers.

“We hope he doesn't continue to shoot the way he's been shooting,'' Prince said. “The only thing you can do is try to contest him and hope he misses.''

His teammates recognized and fed off his effort while playing 17 minutes of the second half.

“He did great,” said Chucky Atkins, referring to Prince. “I can't express how happy I am for him. He didn't score any points but he came in and really helped defend against McGrady.''

Orlando coach Doc Rivers said the Pistons played more physical in Game 2 than they did in Game 1. He thought McGrady was hit consistently by the Pistons and probably deserved to get a few more foul shots (10 of 11) than he actually ended up with.

Nevertheless, the Magic heads back to Orlando (1-1) thinking more about finding help for McGrady on offense than being concerned about Detroit's pushing and shoving.

NOTE: At halftime, the Pistons honored Earl Lloyd, who will be inducted this year into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Lloyd became the first black player in the NBA in 1950. He played for the Pistons from 1958-60 and coached them in the early 1970s, after being the first black NBA assistant coach in 1968.



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