PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers got the Detroit Pistons’ attention. Then they got steamrolled.
The Pistons powered into the second round of the playoffs by crushing Philadelphia 100-77 on Thursday night, winning the series 4-2 and again demonstrating how good they are when they feel they need to be.
Detroit convincingly won the last two games of a series that wasn’t expected to last this long. The Pistons will host the Orlando Magic, who eliminated Toronto in five games, on Saturday in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The teams split four meetings this season.
“Philadelphia probably woke us up,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “Over the last 10 quarters we’ve executed as well as we can.”
Richard Hamilton hit his first five shots during Detroit’s overpowering start and finished with 24 points, 13 in the decisive first quarter when he outscored the 76ers by himself. Chauncey Billups added 20 points and Tayshaun Prince had 12 for the Pistons, who reached the second round for the seventh straight season.
They were all on the bench for nearly the entire fourth quarter, when the lead ballooned over 30 points. Detroit held Philadelphia without a field goal for nearly the first six minutes of the game, ending any real hopes the Sixers’ had of forcing a Game 7 back in Michigan.
Andre Iguodala scored 16 points and Andre Miller had another quiet game with 11 for the Sixers, who outplayed the heavily favoured Pistons for the first 3 1/2 games of the series but never really had a chance after that.
“It’s difficult because it’s our home court and we wanted to play well,” Miller said. “We were maybe a half away from going up 3-1. We kind of fell apart after that.”
The second-seeded Pistons won 59 games during the regular season, second-best in the NBA behind Boston. But they quickly found themselves trailing the upstart 76ers, who were just 40-42, 2-1 then fell behind by 10 points at halftime of Game 4.
Detroit rallied to win that game, then trailed for only 23 seconds over the final two mismatches. As easy as the Pistons’ 98-81 victory in Game 5 was, they had even less trouble in this one, racing to a 10-0 lead and never giving the disappointing crowd of 14,130 a chance to get into the game.
Detroit shot 58 per cent from the field and limited Philadelphia to 34 per cent.
“We really didn’t catch a rhythm in this series until that second half of Game 4, and we really got our defence going, our offence going and things like that,” Hamilton said. “And we kept carrying it over, so hopefully we can continue to do that.”
Players took the court to music and a clip from “Rocky III” in which Apollo Creed tells Philadelphia’s favourite movie hero that, “There is no tomorrow!”
It took just minutes to realize that for the Sixers, there wouldn’t be.
The score was quickly Hamilton 7, Philadelphia 0, with the Sixers’ sloppy start including an errant pass from Iguodala that struck Samuel Dalembert right upside his recently mohawked head for a turnover, followed a minute later by Thaddeus Young throwing up a 25-footer from 23 feet.
By the time Miller made Philadelphia’s first field goal with 6:13 left in the period, that only cut Detroit’s lead to 16-5. The Pistons shot 69 per cent in the quarter, opening a 30-12 lead.
“We came prepared, we came ready, but they were on such another level,” Dalembert said.
A Philadelphia flurry early in the second cut it to 12, but the Pistons regained control when their starters returned and were ahead 51-33 when Billups hit a jumper at the halftime buzzer.
Fans booed as the Sixers walked off the court trailing 79-51 after three, but this should go down as a good season for a team that was widely expected to finish at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Philadelphia was 18-30 in early February but closed with 22 wins in its last 34 games, then rallied from 15 points down in Game 1 to stun the Pistons at Detroit.
The few fans that were left gave the Sixers a standing ovation in the final minute and again after the game.
“No way did I anticipate a night like this,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. “I didn’t think they’d continue to make shots, but they did. We just never got a run, their defence was suffocating.”
Notes: The 76ers fell to 10-1 in first-round series since 1975 when winning Game 1. … The Pistons have ended the Sixers’ last three trips to the post-season. Detroit eliminated them in both 2003 and ’05. … Even the Sixers’ public address announcer had a rough night. When Jason Smith checked in late in the third quarter, he was announced as Jason Williams.