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Published: Monday, 4/28/2008

Pistons even series with 76ers with big third-quarter surge

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHILADELPHIA - A dash of perfection was exactly what Detroit needed to go from the brink of a disastrous deficit to back in control of the series.

All it took was 12 minutes.

Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points and made all but one shot from the field, and the Pistons played with a purpose and dominated the second half to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 93-84 last night, tying the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series at 2-2.

"Everybody knows that we are good under pressure," said guard Chauncey Billups said. "I hate that we put ourselves in this position a lot of times."

Game 5 will be tomorrow night at Detroit.

The Pistons squashed all that chatter about heading home with a series deficit, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit by outscoring the 76ers 34-16 in the third quarter.

That combined 4-for-14 first half from Billups and Rasheed Wallace? Forgotten after they drilled consecutive 3-pointers in the period. Prince - 11-for-12 from the floor - followed with a baseline layup to cap an 11-0 spurt and give the Pistons their first lead of the game, 47-46.

Wallace, perhaps fired up after he was given a technial in the final seconds of the first half, hit two more 3s that whipped a 14-point deficit all the way around to a 60-53 lead.

"I believe in the guys who are in our locker room," Billups said.

Wallace was 5-for-12 from the field, but sank all three 3s in the third. Billups' 4-for-16 was an afterthought compared to his nine-point, three-assist quarter. Prince was, of course, a perfect 3-for-3.

"Once Sheed got going from the outside, things really started to work in our favor," Prince said.

The Pistons picked up the defensive pressure and forced seven turnovers in the third. Detroit played like the 76ers did in Game 3, with active hands in the lane and pressure up top that rattled the upstart home team.

"The game turned just like that," 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "We gave them life in the third quarter."

The Sixers pumped up the crowd when they played season highlights set to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'•". Then Detroit guaranteed its season won't unexpectedly cut-to-black.

All the euphoria the Sixers created after a 20-point win in Game 3 only grew as they raced to a 14-point first-half lead. The younger, faster, confident Sixers were taking it to the aging, slumping Pistons yet again.

Then the real Pistons showed up in the third quarter, not the ones who tossed in the towel on Friday.

They haven't reached five straight Eastern Conference finals by losing two straight road games to the seventh seed in the first round.

"It doesn't matter what round it is, when you go down 3-1, you put yourselves in a tough situation," Prince said.

Wallace finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Richard Hamilton bounced back from a 1-for-10 first half to finish with 18 points. Billups also scored 18 points.

Antonio McDyess did not start but scored 10 points a day after he had surgery to repair a broken nose. He never thought about sitting out and wore a mask to protect the nose broken in the third quarter of Game 3.

Nothing can protect Andre Iguodala from more criticism about his awful playoff series.

Cheeks was peppered with more questions about the pressing need for the slumping forward to start scoring big baskets. Iguodala showed early promise and made his first three shots, then collapsed again and finished with only 12 points.

Unlike the Pistons stars, Iguodala never got untracked in the second half. He missed 10 of his final 11 shots and misfired on several wild attempts when he tried to seemingly take a 3-1 series lead all by himself.

"We've got to work harder on the game plan, and I've got to be shooting better shots," Iguodala said.

SUNS 105, SPURS 86

PHOENIX - Boris Diaw had 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in one of the best playoff performances of his career, and Phoenix stayed alive by routing San Antonio.

Raja Bell scored 21 of his 27 points in a dominant first half to help Phoenix bring a one-sided end to the defending NBA champions' nine-game playoff winning streak. The Suns were 11-0 in the regular season when Bell scored at least 20.

HORNETS 97, MAVERICKS 84

DALLAS - David West let out his pent-up frustration over a poor Game 3 with a determined effort in Game 4, scoring 10 of his 24 points in a quick stretch early in the second half to help New Orleans pull away and take a 3-1 lead over Dallas.



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