DETROIT (AP) -In some ways, Tayshaun Prince seems like the same player he was when he suddenly went from the bench to playing for the Detroit Pistons during the 2003 playoffs.
Prince slows down opponents with his lanky 6-foot-9, 215-pound frame and basketball IQ.
He scores on an array of runners and spin moves around the lane, and from the outside with an awkward stroke.
In subtle ways, Prince has evolved as more than just a sidekick in the shadow of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace.
Prince has become more aggressive offensively instead of deferring to his veteran teammates.
``Tayshaun is taking the initiative now and that's made the biggest difference in his game,'' Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said Friday.
After Thursday's practice, Prince bristled at that notion.
``I'm making shots. Stop the deferring and everything,'' Prince said. ``When you're getting shots and high-percentage shots, you're going to get opportunities. When you do that, your teammates look for you more.''
Prince is averaging 16 points in the playoffs - trailing only Hamilton in scoring on the team - and is making a personal-high 56 percent of his shots.
He is still getting it done at the other end of the court, following up his famed block against Reggie Miller by turning away Hedo Turkoglu's dunk attempt to help Detroit eliminate the Orlando Magic earlier this week.
Prince and the Pistons earned a spot in the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth straight year, becoming the first team to be that consistent in the playoffs since the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s.
``I can't enjoy it right now,'' Prince said. ``This is the sixth time, but we only got to the finals twice.
``It's nothing to get excited about right now.''
The last player to reach the conference finals in each of his first six seasons was former Laker Byron Scott, now coaching the New Orleans Hornets.
No one in NBA history has appeared in more playoff games through their first six postseasons than Prince. His 108 games breaks Scott's mark of 106.
At some point, Prince will add to that impressive total.
The Pistons will play at Boston on Sunday night in Game 1 of the conference finals if the Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road Friday night in Game 6.
If the Cavs extend the series to a Game 7, Detroit will likely play Tuesday night either at Boston or at home against Cleveland.
``Obviously, we don't know who we're going to play yet,'' Prince said. ``So, we're just working on things we want to do and getting some shots up.''
The Pistons want Prince to stay sharp because Billups said his all-around game is better than ever.
``He's playing at a very high level at both ends,'' Billups said. ``He's taking on tough matchups and really being effective. He's containing his man and his guy is not able to stop him. That's something we love and look to even more this year.''
After playing just 42 games during the 2002-03 season as a rookie, then-coach Rick Carlisle put Prince in the first-round series against Orlando and he shut down Tracy McGrady to help Detroit rally from a 3-1 deficit.
``It was a win-win situation when I got in because I really couldn't tell the difference between the regular season to the playoffs because I wasn't playing in the regular season,'' Prince recently joked.
He tied a second-round series game in 2003 against the Philadelphia 76ers, then scored seven of his 20 points in overtime to help Detroit advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1991.
Pistons players, coaches and front-office officials have said the franchise wouldn't have won its third title in 2004 without Prince.
He made one of the most spectacular defensive plays in NBA playoff history late in Game 2 of the conference finals against Indiana. Trailing Miller by several steps, Prince sprinted from midcourt and perfectly timed a block that lifted Detroit to a series-evening victory.
Then, Prince slowed down Kobe Bryant as Detroit eliminated the Bryant- and Shaquille O'Neal-led Lakers in the NBA finals.
While playing strong defense the past three postseasons, Prince averaged 13.4, 16.4 and 14.1 points in the playoffs.
But like some of his teammates, he seemed tired during last year's conference finals against LeBron James and the Cavs.
That led to Detroit playing its reserves more during the regular season and Prince ended up playing fewer minutes than he had since he was a seldom-used rookie.
That might've helped him average 16.3 points in the first round against the Sixers and 15.6 against the Magic, whose shot-blocking star, Dwight Howard, failed to stop Prince on a go-ahead basket in the final seconds of Game 4.
Prince has scored in double digits in each of Detroit's 11 postseason games and had 20-plus points in each of the first two rounds while defending standouts such as Turkoglu and Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala.
``Tayshaun epitomizes what a Piston should be,'' Dumars said. ``He's smart, tough and totally committed to winning.''

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