Prince is royal pain to MagicPosted: Sunday May 04, 2003 6:53 PM
Updated: Sunday May 04, 2003 8:13 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- No one ever told Tayshaun Prince that big games aren't for rookies.
"In my two years here, we've only given out a game ball twice," said Pistons coach Rick Carlisle. "One was early last year for a situation I'm not going to talk about. Today was the second one.
"We kept the ball and the team presented to Tayshaun Prince. That young man was the difference today -- to show that kind of maturity as a rookie is very impressive."
Prince, with the game ball in his locker, said that he tried to treat the game like something he experienced at Kentucky.
"A couple people told me that Game 7's are like NCAA tournament games," he said. "You win or you go home. That's exactly how this felt."
Prince didn't even play in Games 1 and 4 but averaged 8.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in the other five. Detroit went 4-1 in those five games.
"We struggled in Game 1, so we tried Tayshaun in Game 2, and he was a big factor," Carlisle said. "He struggled in Game 3, so we went back to our regular rotation, but when Game 5 came along, he was ready to go."
Prince and Orlando's Drew Gooden roomed together during pre-draft workouts last summer in California.
"I think Tayshaun had a lot to do with this," Gooden said. "When we could have closed the gap, he knocked down a couple threes, he penetrated a couple times and got an easy basket and found another open guy. It seemed like he had a 16-0 run. He had a great game."
Prince wasn't the only rookie having a big day. Gooden had 20 points and 17 rebounds for the Magic, while Gordan Giricek had 16 points and five assists.
"I thought our two youngest players really showed up to play tonight," Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "This was a Game 7, but Drew and Gordan both had great games."
Loving the new rules
Not surprisingly, Carlisle is now a big fan of the new best-of-seven format for the first round. Under the old best-of-five rules, Orlando would have won the series in four games.
"On paper, we certainly would have been out," he said. "So the new rules were a break for us. We definitely needed every second of this series to pull it out."
Rivers felt the Pistons just kept getting stronger and stronger as the series went on.
"The longer this went, the more guys they had start to step up," he said. "They just came to play. We played hard, but we didn't play well. They did both."
Looking to the future
Both Rivers and McGrady talked about the future after the disappointing loss.
"I told our guys to look around the arena and look at the crowd with about a minute and a half left," Rivers said. "I wanted them to see what the celebration was like. For the first time since I've been here, I can say that we're going to be all right without praying that Grant Hill's healthy. We have a future here."
McGrady plans to be ready to contribute to that future.
"If you want to be a great player in this league, you have to come back stronger from losing a series," said McGrady. "I'm going to enjoy the offseason and my little girl for a couple weeks, and then I'm going to start getting ready for next season."
Detroit hadn't played in a Game 7 since eliminating the Bulls in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. Orlando's only other Game 7 was an 105-81 victory over Indiana in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. ... Carlisle said the victory might be a boost for the city of Detroit. "With the Red Wings unable to advance, we really wanted to win this and give the people of this city someone to cheer for." ... Faces in the crowd included boxer Thomas Hearns, Detroit Lions defensive end James Hall, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward and Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn.