Swept! Detroit ends the Orlando Magic's season
Friday after practice at RDV Sportsplex, Howard was asked whether he was getting the ball often enough in this first-round playoff series.
After a weighty pause, he said, "I have an opinion on that, and I'll wait until the end of the season to express that."
The Detroit-Orlando postseason series ended just like the regular-season series: with a sweep.
Chauncey Billups scored 25 points, Richard Hamilton added 19 and the Pistons overcame a lackluster fourth quarter to beat the Magic 97-93 Saturday and sweep the first-round series.
The sweep was Detroit's first in the playoffs since 1990, when the "Bad Boys" won a second consecutive NBA title.
The Pistons handily won the first three games of the best-of-seven series, but the finale was much more difficult -- mostly because Detroit went cold to start the final period.The Pistons were ahead 78-69 early in the fourth, but missed 11 of 13 shots and found themselves trailing 85-80 with about 3 minutes remaining.
But the veteran team, which has advanced to four consecutive Eastern Conference finals, took control down the stretch.
Rasheed Wallace hit a 3-pointer that made it 85-83. Chris Webber followed with a hook shot in the lane. Then Billups and Hamilton took over, combining to score Detroit's final 12 points.
Hamilton hit a jumper in the lane to put the Pistons ahead 87-86, then Billups sank a driving layup high off the glass. Hamilton followed with another jumper that made it 91-88.
The duo also went 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the final 21 seconds.
Dwight Howard had 29 points and 17 rebounds -- dominating the post for the only time in the series -- to lead the Magic. Wallace, Webber and others bottled up Howard in the first three games but had less success Saturday.
Howard was 10-of-15 from the field and 9-of-17 from the free throw line.
Grant Hill added 17 points for Orlando and Darko Milicic had 14 -- half of them in the closing minutes.
It wasn't enough, though.
All five Detroit starters scored in double figures. Tayshaun Prince and Wallace had 13 points apiece, and Webber finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
The Pistons can only hope their starters continue playing the way they did against Orlando.
Detroit will face the winner of the Chicago-Miami series. The Bulls lead 3-0 heading into Sunday's Game 4.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
The Magic looked like they would send the series back to Detroit, but the Pistons closed out the final three quarters strong -- much like they did in Game 3.
They got an unlikely basket to close the half -- Hamilton went coast-to-coast in 3.2 seconds for a layup -- and Prince had a 3-pointer and two free throws in the final minute of the third. Prince's unanswered points gave the Pistons a 73-67 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.
The Magic sliced into the lead with a 12-0 run, but had two big turnovers in the final 2 minutes that allowed Detroit to pull away.
Orlando led 25-22 after the first quarter, its first advantage at the end of any period in the series.
The Magic made it a 10-point game, 37-27, with a string of drives and dunks to open the second. But Carlos Delfino, Webber and Flip Murray put the Pistons back in front.
The trio combined to carry Detroit on a 13-2 run and to a 40-39 advantage. Delfino scored eight points in a 3-minute span, Webber had two buckets and Murray had four steals that sparked much of the spurt. Billups then hit a 3-pointer, and the Pistons had all the momentum.
But Orlando went back inside to quell the storm. Howard had a dunk, and Hill followed with a driving basket and three free throws that seemingly put the Magic up 46-45 heading into the locker room.
Hamilton had other thoughts with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Wallace's inbound pass bounced near midcourt before Hamilton picked up -- smartly conserving the clock -- and then Hamilton dribbled a few times before slashing to the hoop for the layup and the lead just before the buzzer sounded.
Hamilton finished the first half with 11 points. Billups had 12 points and five assists.
Notes: We now head into one of the biggest off season's in franchise history. Both Howard and Nelson could land contract extentions. Darko is a restricted free agent. Grant Hill's contract is up. And the coaching staff needs to be addressed.