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Billups helps Pistons advance

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Chauncey Billups returned just in time to put the Detroit Pistons into the Eastern Conference finals.

Billups, who missed Games 2, 3 and 5 with an ankle injury, scored nine of his 28 points in overtime to lead the Pistons to a series-ending 93-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

The Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1991 -- the year after winning their second straight NBA title. Detroit will play the defending East champion New Jersey Nets beginning Sunday afternoon for the right to go to the Finals.

Billups gave the Pistons a 92-89 lead with 15.2 seconds left in overtime on his third three-pointer of the extra session. He scored Detroit's first six points of OT on three-pointers.

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After Allen Iverson missed a driving layup with 10 seconds to go, Chucky Atkins made a free throw to ice it with six seconds left.

The Pistons, who set an NBA record by going 8-0 in overtime games during the regular season, improved to 2-0 in overtime in the playoffs.

Iverson, who was late arriving at the arena because he supposedly was stuck in a traffic jam, scored 38 points -- including six in the row in overtime to tie the game after Detroit went ahead 89-83.

Richard Hamilton scored 19 points, Corliss Williamson had 17 and Tayshaun Prince added 14 for the Pistons, who had lost 14 of 15 road playoff games.

Derrick Coleman had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Kenny Thomas added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

The Sixers had a chance to win it in regulation after Billups made two free throws to tie it at 81 with 14.6 seconds left. Iverson brought the ball upcourt, but couldn't get a shot off as he was guarded by Prince. He passed to Coleman too late for a buzzer-beating attempt.

After Prince's layup gave Detroit an 89-83 lead midway through overtime, Iverson scored six straight on a short jumper and two driving layups to tie it.

Detroit missed twice on its next possession, and Iverson missed a 20-footer with 37 seconds left to set up Billups' final three-pointer.

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Iverson didn't arrive at the First Union Center until 32 minutes before the scheduled starting time of 7:30 p.m. EST. He had no problem getting on track early, hitting five of his first six shots and scoring 21 in the first half.

But Iverson missed seven straight at one point in the second half, and missed 13 of his last 18 shots. He finished 14-for-33.

Billups was 6-of-18, including 5-of-13 from beyond the arc, and made all 11 of his free throws. Ben Wallace had 10 points, 18 rebounds and five steals.

A 14-2 run by the Pistons tied the game at 30 with 4:24 left in the first half. But the Sixers outscored Detroit 14-6 to take a 44-36 halftime lead. Greg Buckner hit a three-pointer and Coleman got a fast-break slam just before the quarter ended.

Philadelphia opened a 20-8 lead in the first quarter with a 16-0 run. Iverson scored six straight to start the run on a 14-footer and two layups. Three-pointers by Aaron McKie and Coleman sandwiched around a 20-footer by Iverson closed it. Detroit went scoreless for a stretch of 5:58 before Hamilton made a turnaround jumper.

DETROIT (93)

Curry 0-1 0-0 0, Wallace 4-8 2-5 10, Robinson 1-5 0-0 3, Billups 6-18 11-11 28, Hamilton 6-19 7-8 19, Williamson 4-8 9-11 17, Atkins 0-4 2-3 2, Okur 0-5 0-0 0, Prince 6-11 0-0 14. Totals 27-79 31-38 93.

PHILADELPHIA (89)

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Van Horn 1-4 0-0 2, Thomas 6-11 0-0 12, Coleman 5-11 3-3 14, Snow 3-7 3-5 9, Iverson 14-33 9-10 38, McKie 2-3 0-0 5, Williams 0-3 0-0 0, Skinner 0-0 4-4 4, Buckner 2-7 0-0 5. Totals 33-79 19-22 89.

Detroit 15 21 27 18 12 --; 93

; Philadelphia 24 20 20 17 8 --; 89

; 3-Point Goals -- Detroit 8-29 (Billups 5-13, Prince 2-6, Robinson 1-2, Wallace 0-1, Okur 0-2, Hamilton 0-2, Atkins 0-3), Philadelphia 4-9 (Iverson 1-1, McKie 1-1, Coleman 1-1, Buckner 1-4, Van Horn 0-1, Williams 0-1). Fouled out -- Williamson, Snow, Van Horn. Rebounds -- Detroit 48 (Wallace 18), Philadelphia 60 (Thomas 14). Assists -- Detroit 16 (Billups 5), Philadelphia 16 (Iverson 9). Total fouls -- Detroit 29, Philadelphia 32. Technicals -- Williamson, Iverson, Philadelphia coach L.Brown. A -- 20,888 (20,444).

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