Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Pistons lead Magic, but still not content



DETROIT - The Pistons hold a 2-0 series lead over the Orlando Magic, and history says they should go on to win their best-of-seven series. Only 19 teams have come back from an 0-2 hole to advance.

Of course, it was only last year the Pistons lost after staking a 2-0 lead. It happened in the Eastern Conference finals, where the Cleveland Cavaliers won the next four games to advance to the NBA Finals.

That's why the Pistons say they aren't content as they head to Orlando for tonight's Game 3.

"We know that we can play better," shooting guard Richard Hamilton said. "We played a good game in Game 1, but in Game 2 we had some slippage in the third quarter. We feel as though we can improve there. So we'll come out and play a complete game."

In that third quarter Monday, the Magic scored 36 points, shot 65 percent and hit all seven of its three-point attempts. It rallied from a 10-point halftime hole to trail by just two.

There were problems on both ends of the floor. On the defensive side, the Pistons seemed to lose track of the Magic's many 3-point shooters, who spotted up in the corners again and again for clean looks.

"I think . . . we lost some guys in transition," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Rashard Lewis hit a couple of 3s just trailing the play when both of our bigs were on Dwight Howard. So we had some miscommunication. I think once we got in a better lockdown situation we were able to take some of those away."

Excluding the third quarter, the Magic shot 4-for-19 on 3-point attempts. It's not as if the Pistons can't guard those spots.

"We've just got to know where they're at," Hamilton said. "I think we kind of lost focus on taking away corner threes, where they love to shoot them at. We've just got to do a better job of that."

Especially on the road. Saunders said he thinks the Magic will look to get hot from outside early tonight to ignite its home crowd.

"They're going to try and play a lot off emotion," he said. "Our big thing is to take that emotion out of the game."

At the other end, the Pistons' backcourt, a tandem that excelled down the stretch, played through a bout of bad decisions and missed shots.

The biggest culprit was Hamilton, who went 1-for-6 without an assist in the third quarter. Point guard Chauncey Billups went 4-for-7, but had only one assist. Meanwhile, the starting frontcourt of Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Jason Maxiell went 6-for-6.

"I thought we rushed some things trying to shoot a little too quickly," Saunders said. "We got a little too thirsty trying to score too quickly."

He was speaking mainly of Hamilton, and Hamilton couldn't argue.

Maybe, but Saunders would like to see that excitement extend to the passing game, particularly if it's going to get his big men more involved.

Asked about the need to stop shooting so much and get the big men more involved, Hamilton smiled and said, "That's what we do," meaning he and Billups shoot a lot.

But he also knows getting more balanced scoring will be necessary to take out the opposing crowd in a building that will no doubt be rocking with emotion.

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