Magic's Nelson Is Sticking To His Guarantee

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Jameer Nelson is sticking to his guarantee.
The Detroit Pistons don't blame him.
Shortly after going down 3-1 in the second round, Orlando's point guard said the Magic would go on the road and beat Detroit to extend the series.
"What am I supposed to do? Guarantee a loss?" Nelson asked Monday. "We've got to win the game. We have the confidence that we can do it.
"I believe it."
The Pistons have heard their fair share of guarantees over the years, usually from teammate Rasheed Wallace, and they responded to Nelson's with a collective yawn.
"He doesn't have anything to lose by saying that," Tayshaun Prince said. "One thing he's probably trying to do is spark his club."
Detroit might be without Chauncey Billups when it hosts Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Billups' Bentley was in the parking lot well before the team's midmorning practice to get treatment on his strained hamstring and go through a workout with strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander.
"If you look at it from three or four days ago to today, it's night and day," Kander said. "Running good. Feeling good.
"He's had no setbacks and he comes in every morning feeling better."
If Billups sits out for a second game in a row, coach Flip Saunders insisted it will have nothing to do with having a cushion in the series.
"When he's ready to go, he's going to play," Saunders said. "If we were down, it wouldn't matter."
Detroit has been pretty tough to beat when it has a chance to advance.
The Pistons are 14-3 following a third victory in a series since 2003, when they started a streak of advancing to at least the Eastern Conference finals.
As defending champions, they lost to San Antonio in Game 7 of the 2005 NBA finals and dropped two games after going ahead 3-1 in the second round last year against the Chicago Bulls.
If Detroit avoids a collapse against the Magic, it will be the first franchise to play in six straight conference championships since the Los Angeles Lakers did it from 1984-89. During that time, the Lakers won three titles. The Pistons are shooting for their second during their current stretch.
The Pistons plan to take care of business so that they can avoid a trip to Orlando for Game 6 and possibly a series-deciding game at home, giving Billups time to heal as the Boston-Cleveland series unfolds.
"We don't want to go back (to Orlando)," Richard Hamilton said. "We want to treat this game like it's our Game 7 and hopefully come out and get a win."
The Pistons have been beating Orlando in part because Dwight Howard's production has dipped to solid from spectacular.
Howard is averaging 15.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 12.5 rebounds and three blocks against Detroit. He scored 22.6 points on 64 percent shooting, grabbed 18.2 rebounds and blocked nearly four shots a game in the first round.
Against the Toronto Raptors, Howard became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to have a trio of 20-point, 20-rebound games in a series.
Howard scored just eight points in Detroit's 90-89 comeback win at Orlando on Saturday. That output matched the career playoff low he set when the Pistons swept the Magic in the first round last season.
Before the series started, Howard talked about how Detroit's Wallace has shared encouraging thoughts in previous matchups.
"He sees something in me as a player," Howard said. "So, he's always trying to give me words of wisdom and advice."
Wallace wasn't afraid of his tips being used against him.
"You ever had an intern? Get an intern and you'll see what it is," Wallace said before Game 1. "You teach an intern some things, but you won't teach an intern everything."
Howard has remained upbeat about his game and the Magic's chances of coming back against Detroit despite his struggles, adding everyone should be saying what Nelson said.
"It's not going to happen unless we believe it," Howard said. "Our mind-set is to go up there and come back with a win."


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