AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 13 (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons remain unrelenting. The Los Angeles Lakers are unraveling.

The Pistons moved within one win of capturing the NBA title, finishing with a rush in an 88-80 Game 4 victory over the Lakers, who appear to be going down in a hailstorm of missed shots and unmet expectations.

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The Pistons have used tough defense en route to a 3-1 lead.
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An emotional Rasheed Wallace emerged from a personal prison of foul trouble to collect playoff highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds. He teamed with Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton to fuel a 32-point fourth quarter that brought The Palace of Auburn Hills to a fever pitch and pushed the Lakers to the brink.

Wallace took advantage of a hobbled Karl Malone and abused a series of smaller substitutes as he effectively worked his inside-outside game. On defense, he was a one-man zone, helping Ben Wallace with an unruly Shaquille O'Neal.

"I knew Karl was a little hobbled, so that was one of the weaknesses in their defense," said Wallace, who made 10-of-23 shots in 41 minutes. "That's something we had to attack. ... He has a bad knee or whatever, so we can't have no sympathy for that."

"We need him to play major minutes and I think tonight really showed his value," Pistons coach Larry Brown added.

The forward got in a shoving match with Slava Medvedenko in the third quarter and fired his headband into the crowd after missing a 3-pointer in the final period. But he remained focused and finished the job.

"I'm not out there to throw elbows and all of that," he said. "I'm out there to try to help my team win. All that extracurricular stuff can be handled in the back."

Wallace managed to keep his cool while the Lakers were losing theirs. Coach Phil Jackson picked up an early technical foul before falling behind 3-1 in a series for the first time in his career. A flurry of fouls had the players bickering with the referees, and Kobe Bryant was hit with a technical in the fourth quarter.

"That was somewhat of a factor," Bryant admitted.

Billups scored 23 points and Hamilton added 17 as the backcourt mates combined for 19 points in the final period. That helped Detroit withstand an assault by O'Neal, who also had playoff highs of 36 points and 20 rebounds but was reduced to a one-man team.

"I'm very upset," said O'Neal, who made 16-of-21 shots. "We let one slip away. ... We had it, just in the fourth quarter, we made some mistakes."

One of those mistakes was not giving the ball enough to O'Neal. As they have throughout the series, the Pistons shut down most of O'Neal's teammates and bothered Bryant, who made just 8-of-25 shots as he fired away at will and made Detroit's job much easier.

"Some of them were good and some of them stunk," said Bryant, who didn't shoot a free throw until late in the fourth quarter. "That's pretty much every game with me."

For the fourth straight game, the Pistons were the more energetic, hungrier team. They shot 41 free throws to 22 for the Lakers, held a 45-38 rebounding edge and scored 21 fast-break points.

When the series started, many wondered how the Pistons going to win one game. Now it's hard to imagine them losing one. The Lakers still have not had a double-digit scorer beside O'Neal or Bryant

"We all pretty much (stunk) the last two games," Bryant said.

"Give credit to the Pistons," added Jackson, something the Lakers haven't done much of in the series. "They handled the adversity of Shaq's great game and kept their composure and found a way to get to the foul line."

No team has ever blown a 3-1 lead in the Finals. The Pistons can win their first NBA title in 14 years here Tuesday. It would be the first championship and one that will be remembered for a long, long time for Brown, who is not worried about overconfidence anymore.

"I think this group can deal with it because they are trying their darnedest to do it the right way," Brown said. "So there's no need even thinking about what no team did."

Hamilton closed the third quarter with a hoop that tied it at 56-56, then opened the final period with two jumpers to give Detroit the lead for good. When Ben Wallace swooped in for a rebound of his own missed free throw and put in a layup, it was 65-60 with 8:07 to go.

O'Neal was unstoppable at the other end, but Rasheed Wallace made a jumper and two free throws around two 3-pointers by Billups - who is emerging as the MVP favorite - for a 75-67 advantage with five minutes remaining. Bryant was slapped with a tech seconds later.

Rasheed Wallace sank a turnaround at the 2:11 mark for an 83-72 bulge, then choked off a last gasp by the Lakers with a jumper for an 86-78 lead with a minute to go.

"I knew it was just a matter of time that Sheed was going to get going," Billups said. "When he's rolling and you've got Rip rolling and hitting shots and myself, we're tough to play."

The Lakers didn't change their lineup, but they did change their strategy, force-feeding O'Neal early on. He was 5-of-5 with three dunks in the first quarter. But he had just one touch in the last seven minutes as Bryant kept misfiring.

Meanwhile, the Pistons survived at the free-throw line. After a three-point play by Wallace gave them a 21-18 lead with 2:06 left in the first quarter, they went more than eight minutes without a basket but kept the lead as the Lakers got into team foul trouble.

Four straight fast-break baskets by the Pistons opened a 41-36 lead before Bryant buried a 3-pointer to finish the half 3-of-14.

"He rushed his shots a little bit," Jackson said. "He made some shots a little later in the ballgame, but he's not shooting the ball well right now."

Malone gutted his way through 21 minutes before sitting down for good with 7 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.