Pistons awaken in second half, top Bulls for East finals berth

CHICAGO -- Chauncey Billups mentioned how quiet the United Center was after the game. If there's one benefit to closing out a series on the road, that's it.

"In a strange sort of way it always feels better to close it out on the road," Billups said. "That silence, like church."

That quiet didn't come easily, but finally, the Pistons can breathe a little easier. There won't be a Game 7.

Elias Says

Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups -- the Mariano Rivera of the NBA -- was at his best controlling the ball in the final stages of the Pistons' victory. Billups made all 14 of his free-throw attempts in the game, including six in the last two minutes of the game. It was the third playoff game in which Billups has made at least 14 free throws without a miss, tying an NBA record.

Elias Says

Richard Hamilton scored 23 points and the Pistons beat the Chicago Bulls 95-85 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night, clinching a series that turned tense after Detroit won the first three games.

"We thought that we let one slip away in front of our home fans," Hamilton said. "We knew that we had to come out here tonight and play hard."

No NBA team has lost a best-of-seven series after taking a 3-0 lead, and the Pistons rejected the Bulls' shot at history. Now, Detroit can focus on its fifth straight conference final.

Down 48-43 at halftime, the Pistons outscored the Bulls 31-21 in the third quarter to take a 74-69 lead, and Chicago could not sustain any momentum in the fourth.

Rasheed Wallace had 16 points and 13 rebounds for Detroit, while Tayshaun Prince added 17 points and nine rebounds. Chauncey Billups was just 3-for-12 from the field but he scored 11 of his 21 points in the third quarter.

"We never talked about having a Game 7," Prince said. "We wanted to really make a statement with this game."

A jumper by Wallace, who had received a technical foul just over a minute earlier, and hook shot by Prince made it 85-73 with 2:20 left, and Detroit hung on from there.

"We were moving the ball," Wallace said of the difference in Detroit's offense in the second half. "In the first half we were stagnant and didn't move the ball. That's what we talked about at halftime."

Chicago's P.J. Brown attempted just three shots in the second half after scoring all of his 20 points in the first two quarters, matching his playoff career-high. Luol Deng added 17 points, but the Bulls were off target after shooting 57.3 percent in Game 5.

Pistons play waiting game

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The Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with Thursday's 95-85 win over the Bulls in Game 6. Detroit must now wait for the other East semifinal (Nets vs. Cavaliers) to finish to find out who the Pistons will play next. Here's a quick look at how Detroit fared against both New Jersey and Cleveland this season.


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Opponent PPG



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This time, they were 28-of-75 (37.3 percent), with Ben Gordon (19 points) going 7-for-18 and Kirk Hinrich (11 points) 3-of-13.

Wallace said the Pistons didn't do anything special against Brown in the second half.

"He was getting the same shots. We were still contesting, he just didn't hit them," Wallace said. "He was on fire in the first half."

The Bulls were trying to become the fourth NBA team to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0, and keep alive their hopes of joining another exclusive club. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2004 Boston Red Sox have rallied from 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series.

The Pistons put the Bulls in that hole by blowing them out in Games 1 and 2 at home and rallying from 19 down to take Game 3 at the United Center, but instead of a second straight sweep, Detroit got a fight.

"We just have to get better," Deng said.

The Bulls have been doing that the past three seasons after a long rebuilding period following the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era. They lost in six games to Washington in 2005, and pushed eventual champion Miami to six games again last year. The expectations jumped when they signed Ben Wallace from the Pistons, and Chicago finished the regular season with 49 wins following a 3-9 start, then swept the Heat in the first round.

It was a major step for a franchise that hadn't won a series since capturing the championship in 1998, but the Bulls came up a little short against the Pistons.

"When you play a team like Detroit, they are going to play you every minute," Deng said. "They can beat you in a very short span."

Wallace hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second half to start a 12-1 run that put Detroit ahead 55-49.

After a timeout, Gordon hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 55-52 with 8:17 left in the third quarter, but the Pistons kept coming. Billups hit a 3 to make it 67-59 with 3:29 remaining.

The lead reached 73-64 when Billups hit three free throws after Hinrich committed his fourth foul of the game and third of the quarter with 2:27 left. But a putback by Deng and a 3 by Gordon cut it to four before Detroit's Jason Maxiell hit a free throw.

The Pistons took control of the boards in the second half, outrebounding Chicago 14-7 in the third quarter and finishing with a 48-35 edge.

"We started over-dribbling," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We were doing it some right in the beginning of the game but we were able to get away with it because our effort was good, our intentions were good. We were coming off pick-and-rolls and shooting on the way down. We only had 11 turnovers, but it seemed like a lot more."

Game notes
Ben Wallace showed up at the arena about 1 hour, 15 minutes before tipoff -- just as he did before Game 3 -- and Chris Duhon and Gordon were a few minutes late. Players are supposed to be there 90 minutes before the game. Skiles shrugged it off, saying, "It took [general manager John Paxson] well over an hour to get down here." ... The Pistons shot 13-of-22 from the field in the first quarter. ... The Bulls made their first 14 free throws but then struggled, finishing 24-of-35. ... Brown had a season-high 19 points against the Pistons on Feb. 25, and Golden State on Feb. 9.