ORLANDO, Fla. - Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points, Chauncey Billups added 21 and the Detroit Pistons defeated the Orlando Magic, 93-77, last night to take a three-games-to-none lead in their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series.
The victory ended a postseason trend for the Pistons - they had lost their last six Game 3s when leading two games to none - and left them one victory from advancing to the second round.
Detroit gave the Magic plenty of chances in this one. The Pistons trailed early, let Orlando be physical, and seemingly got flustered as they were whistled for three technical fouls.
Leading scorer Richard Hamilton even had an off night, scoring 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
But Detroit made up for it with solid outside shooting from Prince, Billups and Rasheed Wallace.
The Pistons finished 8 of 13 from behind the three-point arc. Wallace, who had 15 points, was 3 for 3; Prince 3 for 5; Billups 2 for 3.
Former St. Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson, a defensive liability at times in the first two games, led the Magic with 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Dwight Howard, who lacked energy in Game 2 because of a stomach illness, had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu, the two players who carried Orlando in the first two games, struggled at home. They were a combined 6 of 22 from the field.
Another key factor in the game - aside from the three-pointers - was Detroit's strong finishes to the first three quarters.
The Pistons scored the final six points of the first, tying the game at 23. They made two baskets in the closing seconds before halftime. And Prince hit a three on the last possession of the third.
Jazz 81, Rockets 67
SALT LAKE CITY - Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Utah held Houston without a field goal for 10 minutes in the second half while beating the Rockets in Game 3 of their playoff series.
Deron Williams added 11 points and eight assists, and rookie reserve Paul Millsap scored 13 points for the Jazz, who didn't allow a point by the Rockets' reserves.
Yao Ming had 26 points and 14 rebounds and Tracy McGrady scored 24 points for Houston, which leads the series, two games to one.
Ellis is most improved. Golden State guard Monta Ellis has been selected the league's most improved player, edging Sacramento's Kevin Martin in the closest voting in the award's history.
Ellis, a second-year pro who joined the Warriors straight out of his Mississippi high school, received 47 first-place votes and 352 points from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Martin, the Kings' high-scoring guard, got 44 first-place votes and 349 points.
Nets' Kidd questionable. Jason Kidd missed New Jersey's practice with a bruised left knee and will be a game-time decision for tonight's third game of the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors.
Kidd was hurt in Game 2 while attempting to draw an offensive foul.