|Darko "doesn't care" about boos at The Palace|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 22 April 2007 13:45|
The Pistons drafted Milicic second overall in 2003 - passing on Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - and traded him two-plus seasons later after he averaged fewer than two points a game as a seldom-used reserve.
Milicic said in the past, and reiterated Sunday, he just wants to play.
He's finally getting that chance with the Orlando Magic after not cracking the rotation for Detroit's championship-caliber team.
He averaged eight points and 5 1/2 rebounds in 24 minutes a game this season for Orlando, producing the kind of numbers the Pistons predicted he would on a team not stacked as they were with a veteran frontcourt.
Milicic scored 14 points, tied for second on the team, as Detroit beat the Magic 100-92 in Game 1 of their first-round series.
``We never questioned Darko's ability,'' Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. ``I thought he did some nice things.''
The 7-foot, 250-pound center from Serbia-Montenegro was jeered and taunted throughout the game, particularly while shooting free throws.
``I don't really care,'' he insisted. ``Back home fans used to throw baseball (bats) at me. They used to try to kill me back home, that's why I don't even care.''
He acknowledged it was meaningful to him, however, to play well at The Palace after a poor showing there earlier this season.
``It was important for me because the first game here I struggled. I couldn't make a shot,'' he said. ``I really wanted to come out last night and help my team. I was really happy about it.''
Magic coach Brian Hill was, too.
``I was happy for Darko that he played well,'' he said. ``Obviously the fans have been a little rough on him here. I thought he played hard and with a good amount of confidence. It was good to see him have a good game.''
In return for Milicic, the Pistons have Orlando's first-round pick - 15th overall - in June. He will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Orlando came away from losing Game 1 feeling OK because it had a shot to win, despite missing 18 of 36 free throws and making 21 turnovers.
Detroit, meanwhile, knows it could've turned the game into a rout.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
``The mood of the guys is fine, obviously disappointed in the fact we lost, but confident we can play better (Monday) night,'' Hill said. ``Obviously, we can't afford to have as many turnovers as we did and we have to make free throws, but I think we can do some things to do a better job on some of their key players.''
Detroit guards Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton each had 22 points and the other three starters scored at least 12 apiece.
The Pistons led all game and seemed to be cruising toward a blowout before missing a lot of open shots in the fourth quarter, helping Orlando pull within three points late in the game.
``We got a little stagnant,'' Saunders said. ``I thought there were probably some calls that could have been called. We had a few turnovers.
``But for most of the game, we executed fairly well, took care of the ball and played the way we're supposed to play.''