Winner take all
Pistons-Magic series comes down to a best-of-onePosted: Saturday May 03, 2003 4:51 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- One.
It's the jersey number worn by Tracy McGrady, Orlando's best player, and by Detroit's Chauncey Billups, whose 40-point performance was the driving force behind the Pistons' 103-88 win Friday night in Game 6 of the teams' first-round playoff series.
It's also the number of games remaining in a hard-fought series that will culminate in Sunday's Game 7 at The Palace.
The Pistons will try to avoid becoming only the third top seed to drop a playoff series to a No. 8 seed. The Magic, who have squandered a 3-1 series lead, will try to advance in the playoffs for the first time since Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway played in Orlando.
"We've got to do it the hard way, and that's on the road," said McGrady, who had 37 points and 11 rebounds while playing all but 25 seconds Friday.
The Magic star, who has been hounded all series by the league's best defensive team but still has managed to average 33.5 points per contest, has vowed to "be a little bit more selfish" in the deciding game.
That would be fine with Detroit's Jon Barry.
"He got 46 on us [in Game 2], and we beat them," Barry said after practice Saturday. "He does tend to take other guys out of the mix."
Regardless of what strategy Orlando employs, the Pistons will look to take the same hard-nosed approach that has led them to consecutive 50-win seasons and a pair of Central Division crowns.
"We're playing a very physical brand of basketball right now," Billups said. "We wanted to pick up our aggressive level of play, and we have."
But Orlando has shown it is up to the challenge this series, winning the first game here and matching Detroit's muscle along the way.
Rookie forward Drew Gooden has routinely gone right at two-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace and attacked the glass with Wallace-like intensity.
The Pistons set the tone in Game 6, though. Billups connected on more 3-pointers -- five -- in the first quarter than he had all series and Wallace recorded his fourth double-double of the series with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
"My concern is about the guys coming out too relaxed," Wallace said. "I'm not worried about the guys being too overanxious. We can use that."
Detroit has not only momentum on its side, but also a raucous Palace crowd.
"It's going to be difficult," Orlando forward Shawn Kemp said. "It was difficult to get it in our own house, so you know it's going to be tough in theirs. We just got to be confident. We went in there and won the first game. We've got to go back and get the last game."
Magic coach Doc Rivers thinks playing Game 7 away from Orlando could be a good thing.
"Maybe that's the environment we need, as crazy as it sounds," he said. "It felt like once we got up, then expectations grew. Now we should be the team with nothing to lose again."
"I'll tell you this, Detroit better play their [behinds] off on Sunday or they're going home, and I believe that."
The winner will face Philadelphia in the second round.