Pistons 109, Bucks 99

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MILWAUKEE (AP) – The Milwaukee Bucks kept missing shots and mishandling the ball. Chauncey Billups kept hitting free throws.

Billups was 16-of-16 from the foul line and scored 34 points to send the Pistons back to Detroit with a 3-1 series lead, beating Milwaukee 109-99 in the first round of the NBA playoffs Monday night.

The Pistons can finish off the Bucks with a victory in Game 5 Wednesday night in Detroit.

The Bucks had taken an 86-85 lead on Joe Smith’s jump shot with 5:52 remaining in the game. But the Pistons answered with an 8-0 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Billups and Richard Hamilton, to put Detroit ahead 93-86 with 3:47 remaining.

The Pistons led 95-90 when Antonio McDyess was whistled for a technical foul – Detroit’s second technical of the game – with 2:42 remaining.

Milwaukee’s Michael Redd made the free throw and was fouled on the ensuing possession, hitting another two free throws to cut the Pistons’ lead to 95-93 with 2:29 remaining.

But six straight free throws by Billups, combined with missed shots and mishandled balls by the Bucks, allowed the Pistons to put away the game.

Redd led the Bucks with 33 points, including 15 in the first half to lead all scorers. The Pistons held Redd to 11 points in the first game of the series, but the Bucks’ leading scorer had 40 in Saturday’s victory in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee took a 76-74 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to 16 third-quarter points by T.J. Ford, but Ford picked up his fourth foul with 1:41 remaining in the period.

Billups kept pace with Ford for most of the quarter, scoring 11 points.

The Pistons led by as many as 15 in the first half, but the Bucks made a run as Rasheed Wallace was whistled for a technical foul, his second of the postseason, after complaining about a foul call in the second quarter.

Redd hit the free throw, and Toni Kukoc hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. A fast-break layup by Charlie Bell cut the Pistons’ lead to 44-38.

Notes: Wallace led the league in technical fouls with 19 in the regular season. He also was called for a technical in Game 1. … Hamilton was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Monday for elbowing Redd in the mouth during Saturday’s game. The league upgraded the flagrant foul from a penalty one to a more severe level two. “Hopefully, I can talk to someone,” Hamilton said. “$15,000? I don’t understand that one.” … The Bucks had nine turnovers in the first half, including five by Ford.

AP-ES-05-01-06 2318EDT

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