AUBURN HILLS, Mich. &
The Philadelphia 76ers took advantage of a perfect storm to stun the Detroit Pistons.
Richard Hamilton missed shots he normally makes and Chauncey Billups uncharacteristically struggled at the line for the Pistons in the fourth quarter. Bruising power forward Reggie Evans made a 17-foot fadeaway just before the shot clock expired and the 76ers beat the Pistons 90-86 on Sunday night in Game — of their first-round series.
"When Rip Hamilton misses free throws, Chauncey Billups misses free throws and Reggie Evans hits a fadeaway, our chances are good," 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
The star of the game, Rasheed Wallace, couldn't come through when the Pistons needed him most. He missed a shot near the basket with 10 seconds left that would've made it 88-all.
"I'll put this one on me," Wallace said.
Wallace had 24 points, nine rebounds and matched a franchise playoff record with seven blocks, but that wasn't enough to prevent the biggest upset in an opening game of these NBA playoffs.
"We're not surprised," Evans said. "Around the NBA, they're surprised.
"I'm pretty sure we shocked a lot of people."
Both teams will get two days off before Detroit hosts Game 2 on Wednesday night.
"It's a must-win game now," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
In other playoff games on Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers beat Denver 128-114; Orlando topped Toronto 114-100; and Boston routed Atlanta 104-81.
Detroit, which has have advanced to five straight conference finals, hadn't lost a Game — in the first round since 2003 against Orlando.
In that matchup, the Pistons ended up advancing after trailing 3-1.
"We're going to be all right," Billups said. "We have been here before. We don't want to hang our hat on that, but it is a fact. We know what it takes."
The Sixers entered the playoffs with less experience than any team, but didn't look out of place against a team that trails only San Antonio in combined postseason games.
"We tried to use our youth to our advantage," Andre Iguodala said.
Andre Miller had 20 points, Willie Green scored a career playoff-high 17, Iguodala had career playoff-highs in points (16) and assists (eight).
Evans added a career playoff-high 11 points and 14 rebounds off the bench, backing up Thaddeus Young, who scored 10 for the Sixers in his postseason debut.
The Eastern Conference's second-seeded team was expected to beat the Sixers by double digits and did lead by 15 midway through the third quarter.
But Philadelphia refused to follow the script.
After the Sixers trailed 62-47, Green made two baskets during a 10-0 run that sparked a comeback.
"That kind of swung the momentum," Miller said.
Miller gave Philadelphia a lead midway through the fourth quarter for the first time since late in the first.
After Billups missed three of four free throws and a layup in 2-plus minutes late in the game, he made two from the line to pull the Pistons within one with 45 seconds left.
Detroit's Jason Maxiell drew a charge on the ensuing possession, giving the home team a chance to avoid an upset.
The Pistons set up a play that created an open shot for Tayshaun Prince, but his jumper was short. Wallace was in position for a makable basket, but he couldn't deliver.
"That's why I am definitely going to take this one on the chin," Wallace said.
Billups scored 14, Hamilton had 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting, Maxiell contributed 12 points and a career playoff-high 11 rebounds and Prince added 12.
"There's no question that we grew up in the second half," Cheeks said.
Lakers 128, Nuggets 114
At Los Angeles, Pau Gasol established playoff highs with 36 points and eight assists and had 16 rebounds as well to help the Lakers beat the Nuggets.
Gasol, acquired from Memphis on Feb. — after spending 61/2 seasons with the Grizzlies, was 0-12 in three previous postseasons.
Kobe Bryant scored 18 of his 32 points in the final 8 minutes to keep Los Angeles safely ahead. Lamar Odom had 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists and Luke Walton added 16 points for the Lakers, who entered having won eight of their last nine regular-season games to earn the No. — seed in the Western Conference.
Game 2 will be played Wednesday night at Staples Center before the best-of-seven series shifts to Denver for the third and fourth games.
Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and 12 rebounds for the eighth-seeded Nuggets. Allen Iverson also had 30 points before picking up two technical fouls with 2:10 remaining, calling for immediate ejection.
Magic 114, Raptors 100
At Orlando, Fla., Dwight Howard had 25 points and 22 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson scored 24 points to help the Magic beat the Raptors in the opener of their first-round series.
Howard scored six straight points in a 10-0 fourth-quarter run that sealed Orlando's first playoff win since 2003. He also blocked five shots and made 9-of-11 free throws.
Anthony Parker had 24 points and 8 rebounds for Toronto.
The Raptors, who trailed by 20 points after the first quarter, drew within five with 10:24 left in the fourth on two quick 3-pointers by Jason Kapono and a jumper by Parker. But Toronto went scoreless for the next 3:16 as Orlando pulled away.
Celtics 104, Hawks 81
At Boston, Ray Allen scored 18 points and Kevin Garnett had 16 as the two newcomers who led the Celtics to the NBA's best record sparked them to a win in their playoff opener against Atlanta.
Garnett stopped a 14-3 Hawks run with a jumper, starting a six-point Boston surge that made it 35-27 in the second quarter. And Allen scored 10 straight Celtics points midway through the third that extended a 13-point lead to 67-48 with 5:39 left in the period.
The top-seeded Celtics' lead ranged from 12 to 27 points the rest of the way.
The second game of the best-of-seven series will be in Boston on Wednesday night.
Eighth-seeded Atlanta, which ended the NBA's longest playoff drought with its first appearance in nine years, was led by rookie Al Horford with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Joe Johnson added 19 points.
Perfect story helps 76ers stun Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. &