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Thursday, September 24, 2020

On this date: Tayshaun Prince takes over the Palace (video)

The Detroit Pistons were moving on up. After bottoming out at 32-50 in 2001 (a record we now consider “progress“), the 2002 Pistons finally righted the ship, streaking toward their first division title in 12 years and powering their way to a first round playoff victory behind an as-beastly-as-advertised Ben Wallace.

Fast forward to April 2003. The Pistons, a #1 seed in the East, found themselves on the brink of elimination in their first round matchup against the Orlando Magic, trailing in the series 3-1 as Magic superstar Tracy McGrady carved up the Detroit defense, averaging over 36 points per game through the series’ first four games.

Enter Tayshaun Prince.

With McGrady torching Michael Curry and Clifford Robinson, Pistons head coach Rick Carlisle had little choice but to give his wiry rookie a chance in defending one of the league’s most talented stars. Prince’s NBA experience was virtually non-existent – he’d played just 10.4 minutes per in 42 regular season games. To put that in perspective, rarely used second-round draft pick Spencer Dinwiddie averaged over 13 minutes a night this year for the 2015 Pistons.

Carlisle’s gamble paid off. In his first full-time playoff opportunity, Prince responded in Game 4 with 15 points in 33 minutes. More importantly, he helped limit McGrady to 19 points on 8-20 shooting as the Pistons staved off elimination.

After squeezing out another win in Game 6, Prince pumped in 20 points in a Game 7 Pistons romp (for more perspective, he’d scored 13 points total in the entire month of March). The legend was growing.

(If video does not show, click HERE)

May 8, 2003:

Next up, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. After an 11-point win in Game 1, the Pistons found themselves at risk of coughing up home court advantage, trailing the 76ers by two with 15 seconds remaining. With an opportunity to push his team’s lead to four, Sixers guard Allen Iverson missed back-to-back free throws, providing new life to a Pistons team previously thought to be dead in the water.

15 seconds, down by two. Who steps up? Chauncey? Rip? The sharp-shooting Jon Barry? Naturally, the Pistons called upon the most inexperienced basketball player on the floor, and he responded:

(If video does not show, click HERE)

From there, it was dagger, after dagger, after dagger.

(If video does not show, click HERE)

Once Prince’s jump-spin-hook-float finish forced overtime, he embarked upon his own mini-run in the extra session, converting on another post finish over Aaron McKie and then hitting a shot clock-beating triple try from the top of the key the very next possesion. For an encore, Prince clinched a Pistons victory with one final jump hook in the lane, extending his team’s lead to five and securing a 2-0 series lead.

Ultimately, Prince’s heroics would only take the Pistons as far as a four-game conference finals sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Nets, but the mark had been made. In one two-week stretch culminating on this day 12 years ago, the Pistons found their small forward of the future, rendering the young Carmelo Anthonys of the world redundant and indirectly changing the course of the franchise forever.

Let us know what you think!

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