AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Tayshaun Prince may not be one of the biggest names associated with the Detroit Pistons unless it's the playoffs.
Prince had the best all-around postseason game of his brief NBA career Thursday night, scoring 24 points with a career-high eight assists and nine rebounds to lift Detroit to a 91-77 series-clinching victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of their first-round series.
''He probably was the most valuable player in the series,'' Pistons coach Larry Brown said.
The Pistons now move on to face the New Jersey Nets, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions who swept Detroit in the conference finals last season.
Game 1 is Monday night.
''We're a much better team than we were last year, and they're about the same,'' said Chauncey Billups, who had 19 points and six assists. ''But that same team was good enough to make it to the NBA finals the last two years.''
Detroit took control with a 30-point third quarter after scoring just 39 points in the first half and leading by seven.
Richard Hamilton had 18, Rasheed Wallace had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Ben Wallace added nine points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Milwaukee's Michael Redd scored 22 and Joe Smith had 16. Desmond Mason scored 14 and Keith Van Horn added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks, one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season.
''We fought hard all the way, so this doesn't diminish what we've done,'' Redd said. ''We just ran into a better team.''
At this time last season, Prince went from sitting on the bench to playing a key role in Detroit's run to the conference finals.
He followed that up with a solid second season and yet another strong postseason. The lanky small forward averaged 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and two blocks against Milwaukee.
''He was probably the X-factor,'' Bucks coach Terry Porter said. ''He plays off the other players really well. In the series, he was really at the top of his game.
While the Bucks focused on Billups and Hamilton on the perimeter and Rasheed Wallace inside, Prince often was left alone.
''I've got to make them pay,'' he said.
Prince shot 11-of-15 in the series finale, and ranks among the top shooters in the playoffs.
''I was able to get some wide-open shots because of the double-teams,'' he said. ''It wasn't like I was a go-to guy. I was just feeding off everybody else.''
After a sluggish start, Detroit earned its first cushion with a 9-0 run for a 37-28 lead late in the second quarter. An 8-0 run in the third gave Detroit a 49-36 lead, and the Pistons went ahead by 17 before taking a 69-54 lead into the final quarter.
Milwaukee did little more than trade baskets in the fourth quarter and never mounted a comeback.
''We knew they were going to come out fighting and they did,'' Billups said. ''But we wore them down and took over.''
Kings 119, Mavericks 118
SACRAMENTO, Calif. One last time, the Kings and the Mavericks showed off the NBA's two best offenses and one last time, Dallas couldn't make the last shot.
Mike Bibby set career playoff bests with six 3-pointers and 36 points, and Dirk Nowitzki missed a jumper at the buzzer as the Kings eliminated the Mavericks with a 119-118 victory Thursday night in Game 5 of their first-round series.
The Kings' final three victories in the series all came down to the final shot and Dallas failed on all three tries. Nowitzki, who had 31 points, couldn't get free from Peja Stojakovic again an improbable defensive hero and bounced his shot off the rim as time expired.
Stojakovic scored 23 points for the Kings, who tied their franchise playoff record of 11 3-pointers for the second time in the series. Sacramento needed every one of them, since Dallas held the Kings scoreless in the final 3:22 of regulation.
Brad Miller scored 21 points in a series-high 44 minutes.
The Mavericks closed to 119-118 on Nowitzki's putback layup with 29.4 seconds left. Bibby ran the clock down and drove the lane, but couldn't draw a foul on Nowitzki and threw the ball away.
Steve Nash got the ball to Nowitzki, who barely missed. Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof rushed the court in celebration while the sellout crowd roared and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban frowned.
The Kings advanced to a probable second-round meeting with the top-seeded Timberwolves, who could close out Denver on Friday night. Minnesota was the only opponent to win two games in Sacramento this season.
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