AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 31 (Ticker) -- Richard Hamilton
Detroit Pistons did not look one bit distracted.
Hamilton scored 28 points and the Pistons played a virtually
perfect first half en route to a 106-96 victory over the
foul-plagued Miami Heat that evened the Eastern Conference
finals at two games apiece.
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Facing the prospect of returning to Miami in a 3-1 hole, Detroit
responded with its best effort of the series, reminding
everyone that it still has the mental toughness befitting an NBA
"We're in much better shape than we were after the other night,"
Pistons coach Larry Brown
said. "It's a three-game series with
them having home-court advantage. ... We have to figure out a
way to win one game on the road and then take care of our home
They appeared to uncharacteristically lose their poise as they
blew a lead at the end of Game Three but refused to credit the
Heat for knocking them off their game.
If the Pistons were distracted, it is hard to imagine how good
they would be had they been focused. In the first half, they
shot 52 percent (22-of-42) from the field and did not commit a
turnover in opening a 60-46 lead.
"We've got bigger things at hand," guard Chauncey Billups
"We're worried about the Miami Heat, not what coach is doing.
That doesn't mean anything; we don't really care about that
right now. We're worried about trying to win a series, trying
to defend our championship, not what's going on after the
Leading the way was Hamilton, who was responsible for more than
half the offense with 19 points and seven assists. He also did
an effective job of shadowing Heat star guard Dwyane Wade
taking the duties from Tayshaun Prince.
"I wanted to guard (Wade)," Hamilton said. "It wasn't something
that somebody told me. I just started with him and wanted to
see how it would go. Coach has a lot of confidence in us. He
never says, 'You guard this person.' He allows us on the floor
to make our own decisions on who wants to guard who."
"We just wanted to change up," Brown said. "We didn't know if
we were going to go the whole game with him; we were thinking
about whether foul trouble would dictate who would play him. ...
The kid (Wade) is a great player. You can't give him the same
After making just 15-of-43 shots in the first two games in
Miami, Hamilton scored 61 points on 21-of-39 shooting on his
Detroit did most of its damage in the second quarter, flashing
its balance on both ends. The Pistons made their first seven
shots of the period, then held the Heat to one basket in the
final 5 1/2 minutes.
The Heat did not play well and made things more difficult with
foul trouble. Three players picked up two fouls in the first
quarter, including Shaquille O'Neal
. His third and fourth fouls
also forced him to the bench and triggered runs by the Pistons.
"You want your best players on the floor and we didn't get
that," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy
said. "He was in foul trouble
and that's not good for us, obviously, but you have to deal with
things like that."
Rasheed Wallace scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half and
Billups added 17 for the second-seeded Pistons, who finished at
48 percent (37-of-77) with just six turnovers.
"We've had a couple games this year where we've had very few
turnovers," Brown said. "We play our best when we share the
ball and it goes from side to side. We had five guys take
double-figure shots and that's always a good thing."
"It was a great game by them," Van Gundy said. "I thought their
four main offensive guys played well, and Ben Wallace was a
monster on the boards."
Dwyane Wade was forced to work hard for 28 points and O'Neal
managed just 12 in 25 minutes for the top-seeded Heat, who lost
on the road for the first time in the playoffs and return home
for Thursday's pivotal Game Five.
"They had Rip (Hamilton) face-guard me a little bit when I
didn't have the ball and when I had it, I guess they tried to
apply more pressure on the ball," Wade said. "But it's the same
thing they've been doing every game when I've got the ball."
O'Neal, guard Damon Jones
and backup center Alonzo Mourning
were hit with two fouls in the first quarter, which ended with
Detroit holding a 25-21 lead.
O'Neal returned early in the second quarter but was tentative
and sat down with his third foul with 7:27 left. That was in
the middle of an 18-8 surge by the Pistons that built their lead
Miami fought back within 46-42 before Hamilton hit a pair of
jumpers to start a 10-0 spurt.
"I thought they did a great job taking advantage of Shaq and Zo
(Mourning) both being on the bench with fouls in the first
half," Van Gundy said. "About the only defensive stretch we had
in the first half was when Zo was blocking shots. When he went
to the bench, they really took advantage, and got a big
A thunderous fast-break dunk by Udonis Haslem became a
three-point play that cut the deficit to 68-63 with 4:54 left in
the third quarter. But O'Neal again sat with his fourth foul
at the 3:05 mark, and Detroit scored the next seven points for a
The Heat got no closer than seven points in the final period.
Billups made a 3-pointer and fed Antonio McDyess
for a dunk,
giving the Pistons their largest lead at 93-76 with 5:27 left.