Pistons 91 Magic 86
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons missed 64 per cent of their shots and had a rookie filling in for an all-star at point guard.
It didn’t matter.
Detroit set an NBA playoff record with just three turnovers and made just enough shots and stops to advance to their sixth straight Eastern Conference final with a 91-86 win Tuesday night over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the second-round series.
Richard Hamilton scored 31 points, made victory-sealing free throws late in the game and Tayshaun Prince had a key block to help Detroit eliminate Orlando.
The Pistons are the first franchise to play in six conference finals in a row since the Los Angeles Lakers went to eight straight in the 1980s.
“Now we expect to do this,” Hamilton said. “We’re supposed to be here.”
The Pistons will have a break before facing the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers and that will help Chauncey Billups, who missed his second straight game with a strained right hamstring.
“It’s good to get this over with,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “Now we get a chance to rest.”
Detroit overcame an awful shooting night by making free throws, taking care of the ball and pestering the Magic.
The Pistons were 28-of-32 at the line and didn’t turn the ball over once after the first quarter even though Rodney Stuckey was filling in for Billups.
Orlando made just 16 of 28 free throws and had a playoff-high 21 turnovers, which turned into 34 points for Detroit.
“The fact that the game is close at the end when you look at the free-throw shooting and turnover disparity is remarkable,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said.
To the Magic’s credit, they didn’t go away easily against a playoff-tested team that improved to 15-3 when it has a chance to advance since 2003.
Detroit led by 10 with 3:49 left, but was clung to a 85-84 lead with just under a minute left after Hedo Turkoglu made back-to-back shots.
The Pistons won thanks to Hamilton’s six free throws and Prince’s block of Turkoglu’s dunk attempt in the last 20 seconds.
Each team won a rout in the series while Detroit took all three decided in the final minute.
“They didn’t do anything that beat us, we just made too many mistakes,” Turkoglu said.
Detroit minimized its miscues even with a player a year removed from starring at Eastern Washington.
Stuckey didn’t have a turnover in 33 minutes and had 15 points, six assists and two steals.
“Just because I went to a small school doesn’t mean nothing,” Stuckey said. “I believe in myself when I step out there. This is why Joe (Dumars) drafted me.”
Detroit selected the sturdy point guard with the 15th pick — acquired from Orlando for Darko Milicic — and he was good enough during an injury-stunted regular season to be named to the All-Rookie second team.
Van Gundy acknowledged being disappointed to lose twice with Billups out and Stuckey in.
“That speaks very well for them and it’s very disappointing for us,” Van Gundy said.
Soon after being told his grandmother passed away, Detroit’s Antonio McDyess had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Rasheed Wallace scored 14 and Prince added 10 points for the Pistons.
Turkoglu had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Magic. Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson each had 14 points.
Nelson had guaranteed his team would extend the series with a win.
“We played them tough,” Nelson said. “If there’s anyone in their locker room who didn’t think this was tough, they don’t know what tough is.”
Howard also had 17 rebounds and three blocks, but his night was marred by going 6-of-15 at the line.
Orlando was in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1996.