AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 9 (Ticker) -- Ben Wallace
proved to be the
biggest obstacle for the Indiana Pacers in their latest trip to
The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Wallace set the tone on both ends of the court in the first half
as the Detroit Pistons cruised to a 96-81 victory over the
Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
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The teams were meeting for the third time here since the
November 19 melee that saw the Pacers brawl with fans - an
incident that led to a season-long suspension for Indiana's Ron Artest
and lengthy bans for his teammates Jermaine O'Neal
In March, the Pacers endured more trouble in their first visit
back after a bomb threat was phoned in. That incident delayed
the start of the game by almost 90 minutes.
With no incidents in this one other than a malfunctioning clock
at the end of the first half, the Pacers had no answer for
Wallace, who again was a surprise offensive force while also
controlling the backboards. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds in
the first half, helping the Pistons build a 52-38 lead.
"My plan was just to attack the basket," Wallace said. "In the
past when we played them, they haven't really guarded me, so I
wanted to force them to guard me tonight."
When Indiana coach Rick Carlisle
guided the Pistons, Wallace
mostly stuck to defense and rebounding. Larry Brown
encouraged Wallace to work on his offensive game so that other
teams can't ignore him.
The NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, Wallace finished with 21
points, 15 rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot.
"I thought Ben Wallace really dominated a lot of the activity in
this game and he set an unbelievable tone," Carlisle said. "He
had us on our heels all night, and we've got to find a way to
put a body on him."
It marked the second big offensive game of the playoffs for
Wallace, who averaged just 9.7 points in the regular season. He
scored a career-high 29 points in Game 3 against
Philadelphia in the first round.
"I'm just happy that he decided to make those shots on the other
team instead of me in practice," Pistons reserve Darvin Ham
said. "His defense and intensity on that end is so overwhelming
that people tend to think that he's skill-less on the offensive
end. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm proud of him.
Like I always say, we came in this league the same way. He's
been able to survive it, especially the way he's taken his game
to a whole new galaxy. It's special to see."
scored 28 points to lead the second-seeded
Pistons, who led by double digits the entire second half.
Detroit also got things done with its signature defense, holding
Indiana without a basket for more than six minutes during one
stretch in the second half.
"I think tonight we really thrived off of our crowd," Hamilton
said. "We defended inside and we helped each other out on the
defensive end. We got easy baskets and if we continue to do
that, we should be in good shape."
Last season, the Pistons defeated the Pacers in six games in the
conference finals, also using their defense as the catalyst.
Indiana averaged just 72.6 points in the series, failing to
reach 70 three times.
O'Neal, who suffered a knee injury in last season's conference
finals, scored 22 points for sixth-seeded Indiana, which needed
seven games to beat Boston in the first round, a series that
ended Saturday night.
"I thought we played great," Brown said. "There is not a person
in our locker room that doesn't have a lot of respect for them.
We had a tremendous advantage we were able to rest injured guys
and work guys who haven't played. They came off an unbelievable
series and had to come right in here and get ready to play.
That's tough. I admire that team and I think we had to play to
get the win."
Game 2 is Wednesday.
After a tight first quarter, the Pistons began to take control
with an 11-4 surge to start the second period. Hamilton capped
the spurt with a free throw after Jackson was called for a
technical foul at the 8:52 mark.
Early in the second quarter, the Pistons received a boost from
reserves Antonio McDyess
and Carlos Arroyo
. McDyess hit two
jumpers and Arroyo added a basket in the run to open the
"It was a great opportunity for everybody to play," Pistons guard
said. "Our bench is going to be huge in this
series. I'm just happy that they got the opportunity to play and
to mesh out there. I'm so happy to see them playing so well. I
love it because they take a lot of heat, which I don't think is
Wallace scored inside and Rasheed Wallace
baskets before Lindsey Hunter
drained a 3-pointer with 2:53 left
in the half, pushing the Pistons' lead to 47-33.
The half ended in frustration for the Pacers after Anthony Johnson
fouled Hamilton, who was attempting a 3-pointer with
1.5 seconds remaining. O'Neal then picked up his third
foul with under a second left.
Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley
also battled foul trouble,
picking up his first two fouls in the opening 1:27 of the
In the first half, the Pacers had nine turnovers and six
assists. They finished with 18 turnovers - six by Tinsley -
that the Pistons converted into 18 points.
"We feel like we just didn't take care of the ball," O'Neal
said. "Second-chance opportunities got those guys going."
The Pistons cruised the entire second half, leading by at
least 12 points and by as many as 21.
Rasheed Wallace and Billups each added 11 points for
the Pistons, who shot 47 percent (34-of-73) and held a 45-42
O'Neal, hounded by both Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, made
just 8-of-22 shots.
It also was a rough night for the Pacers veteran Reggie Miller
a clutch postseason performer, who scored just six points and
took just seven shots. He also struggled to guard Hamilton.
"I think they did a good job of taking away our first couple of
options," Miller said. "We didn't have the level of intensity
that it was going to take to play in this ballgame."
Indiana shot just 39.5 percent (30-of-76).
"We have to go back, regroup and look at the film first and
foremost," Miller said. "We are playing the world champions and
we have to play much better and raise our level."