Billups forced to leave game with ankle injury

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Chauncey Billups' sprained ankle concerned the Detroit Pistons as much as their win over
Philadelphia excited them.

Richard Hamilton
scored 25 points and Billups had to be helped
off the court after his 24th point as top-seeded Detroit beat the
fourth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers 98-87 Tuesday night in Game 1 of
the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"It was tough,'' Hamilton said. "I ran to him and said, 'You
all right?' You could see he was in some pain. Chauncey is a big
asset to our team.

"I just got done talking to him in the training room, and said,
'Please tell me you'll be all right for Game 2.' Hopefully he'll be

Game 2 is Thursday night at The Palace. Pistons coach Rick
Carlisle said he may not know until gameday whether Billups will

Philadelphia also has a limping guard.

X-rays were taken of Eric Snow's right foot after the game, and
they were negative. Snow, who received treatment on his foot before
the contest, will be evaluated again before practice Wednesday.

Allen Iverson, who led the league in scoring during the first
round, had 27 points on 8-of-21 shooting for the 76ers. He averaged
34.8 points in the first round against Charlotte.

"They played better than us, but we still had a chance to win
the basketball game, so we feel good about that,'' Iverson said.

Detroit was in control for much of the game, but it was never

That was especially true when Billups left when he turned his
left ankle after shooting a jumper and landing on Snow's foot. His
basket gave the Pistons a 77-70 lead with 10:09 left. Billups has
scored 101 points in his past three games.

The Sixers scored consecutive baskets to pull within three -- the
closest they had been since early in the second quarter -- but
Detroit rookie Mehmet Okur scored six straight points to give the Pistons the cushion they needed.

"We got to 77-74 and we self-destructed,'' 76ers coach Larry
Brown said.

Philadelphia could not get closer than six points as the Pistons
made enough free throws to seal the win. Detroit has not trailed in
the second half of its last four games.

The Pistons lost the opening game of the playoffs to Orlando and
were forced to rally to be just the seventh team in NBA history to
win a series after trailing 3-1.

"We know how important it is to win the first game because we
didn't like being at the other end in the last round,'' Carlisle
said. "But we also won the first game last year against Boston and
lost the series, so we know how important Game 2 is, too.''

The Celtics eliminated the Pistons in Game 5 of the conference
semifinals last season.

Detroit's bench, which led the league with 34.1 points a game
during the regular season, was a force.

Okur scored a playoff-high 16, while Tayshaun Prince and Corliss
Williamson each had eight. Chucky Atkins, who replaced Billups,
scored a basket for the first time since Game 5 against the Magic.

"Their bench came in and gave them a huge lift,'' Brown said.

Philadelphia's Derrick Coleman scored a playoff-high 21 points
and reserve Greg Buckner added 11.

The Sixers made most of their shots in the first half, but their
turnovers were costly.

Philadelphia hit 56.3 percent to Detroit's 37.5 percent, but
trailed 24-21 after the first quarter. The Pistons converted eight
turnovers into eight points.

Early in the second quarter, after Philadelphia took its second
lead, Detroit scored nine straight points for a 33-25 lead.

By halftime, the Sixers were still making more than half their
shots, but trailed 49-40 because the Pistons turned 13 turnovers
into 16 points.

Detroit went ahead 63-50, its largest lead, midway through the
third quarter, but began the fourth up just 73-66.

Game notes
There was a 19-minute delay at 7:51of the first quarter
because the overhead lights at The Palace went out. "A breaker was
tripped, just like what happens in a house,'' Pistons spokesman
Matt Dobek said. ... Detroit's local television network lost its
video and audio signal during the power outage, but play-by-play
announcer George Blaha continued to call the action via telephone.
ESPN and Philadelphia's television network did not have their
broadcasts interrupted.


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