Hamilton helps Pistons complete three-game sweep of Magic

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit Pistons fans witnessed a rare sight: Kwame Brown being interviewed after a game as one of the night's stars.

Brown, who has struggled since being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, had 10 points and played 26 minutes of tough defense against Dwight Howard as Detroit beat the Orlando Magic 98-94. He stepped up after Rasheed Wallace left with a first-quarter injury.

"I'm not sure if that was preparation or just birthday luck," said Brown, who turns 27 on Tuesday. "It felt great to go out there and battle with someone like Dwight, who is one of the best players in this league."

Detroit, which was already without Allen Iverson (back) for the sixth straight game, overcame Wallace's injury to finish off a 3-0 season sweep of the Magic -- a team it could face in the first round of the playoffs.

"I thought every player on the team put on a winning performance," Pistons coach Michael Curry said. I was worried how we would respond with three games in four nights, but it was strong."

Richard Hamilton led Detroit with 29 points and a career-high 14 assists, while Antonio McDyess had a season-high 18 rebounds.

"My shot wasn't falling, so I tried to find my open teammates," Hamilton said. "They were the ones knocking down the shots. When Kwame got in, I told him to make himself a presence and I'd find him."

Howard had 27 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando, which has lost 19 of its last 24 regular-season meetings with the Pistons and been eliminated by Detroit in each of the last two postseasons.

"This was a big game because they have been beating us for four years, and it is difficult to know we haven't beaten them on their home court," Howard said. "We just didn't have the intensity in the second half."

The teams traded the lead 15 times in the first three quarters, with neither able to go up by more than six points.

The Pistons held a 73-71 edge going into the third, and back-to-back baskets by little-used Walter Herrmann put them up 79-73 with 10 minutes to play, but the Magic came right back.

Rashard Lewis' 3-pointer gave Orlando an 85-83 lead four minutes later, but McDyess pulled down three key offensive rebounds to keep Detroit in it.

"He was just great, but a lot of it was because we were getting the shots we wanted," Curry said. "That meant we knew where the rebounds would probably be."

Rodney Stuckey's short jumper put the Pistons up 91-90 with two minutes left, and Howard missed a pair of free throws before Hamilton's jumper made it a three-point game.

McDyess knocked the ball away from Howard, and Hamilton iced another win over the Magic with a mid-range jumper.

"Have you ever seen the movie 'Groundhog Day' -- it is the same story over and over," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I told them late that either we were going to change things against this team or we weren't. All three games this year have been winnable, and we haven't gotten them. Last year in the playoffs, we each had a blowout, and three games went to the wire, and they won them all."

Game notes
Hamilton banked in a half-court shot at the end of the first quarter, but the officials waved it off, a decision quickly verified by a replay review. ... Tayshaun Prince warmed up for the second half with a large ice-pack taped to his right calf but played 20 minutes after the break and finished with 20 points. ... The Pistons are 5-1 since Iverson left the lineup, including three wins over division-leading teams.