MIAMI, June 6 (Ticker) -- Dwyane Wade
may have provided an initial lift
for the Miami Heat, but Rasheed Wallace
and Chauncey Billups
carried the defending champion Detroit Pistons back to the NBA
Wallace had two free throws and a follow shot in a span of 32
seconds and Billups made four foul shots in the waning moments
as the Pistons survived an emotional return by Wade to post an
88-82 triumph over the Heat in the deciding seventh game of the
NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
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Wade, who missed all of Game Six with a rib injury, made the
start for the top-seeded Heat and was a factor in the second
half as Miami led, 74-68, with 6 1/2 minutes left. However, a
short jumper by Tayshaun Prince
ignited an 8-0 burst that gave
Detroit the lead as the game seesawed into the final 90 seconds.
With the Heat clinging to a 79-78 lead, Wallace was fouled by
and hit the ensuing free throws to put the Pistons
ahead for good. After a miss by Wade, Prince missed a short
layup, but Wallace was there for a nifty tip that pushed the
lead to 82-79.
"Rasheed made about three or four unbelievable plays down the
stretch," Pistons coach Larry Brown
had a free throw for Miami with 17.3 seconds to go,
but Billups sealed the game from the line, making all four of
his attempts around a dunk by Miami's Shaquille O'Neal
"Well, he's come up big in so many games," Brown said. "You
know, it did become a foul-shooting contest at the end."
"I love being in those situations; you know, where the game is
near and I have a chance to ice it," Billups said. "I thrive in
those kind of situations."
Prince added two free throws with less than a second left to cap
the scoring and earn Detroit a matchup with San Antonio in the
NBA Finals. The Spurs host Game One of the best-of-seven series
Detroit and San Antonio, which have accounted for three of the
last six NBA titles, split their two-game season series.
"We have great respect for them," Brown said. "They have won
two championships with (coach Gregg Popovich
) and not very many
people talk about it. And we're the defending champs and not
many people talk about that."
"They're a great team with skilled players," Pistons forward
said. "It will be a dogfight. We don't expect
anything less. They'll be ready and we'll be ready."
led Detroit with 22 points, making 11-of-16
shots, and Wallace added 20. Billups made just 5-of-15 shots
but was 6-of-7 from the line with eight assists.
O'Neal scored 27 points and Haslem had 13 and 10 rebounds, but
Wade was just 7-for-20 from the field with five turnovers.
Appearing to be hurt down the stretch, Wade missed two long
jumpers and committed a turnover in the final 75 seconds.
"You've got to really commend him on his effort," Miami guard
said of Wade. "He came out; he was really, really
banged up. He was his normal self. He didn't have his
explosiveness, but he found a way to get it done. He was in a
lot of pain. The toughness and the character of Dwyane Wade is
Miami made just 2-of-11 3-pointers, committed 15 turnovers and
was outrebounded, 41-35. The Heat missed 9-of-14 shots,
committed 10 fouls and had five turnovers in the final quarter.
"We had the lead in the fourth, but they had more defense and
hustle and got to the ball," O'Neal said. "Maybe (the Pistons)
had more experience than we did. ... I don't think anybody
expected us to get this far, but we had a lot of opportunities
to get it done. ... We just had a phenomenal season. Everybody
fought. Guys played well. We almost had it."
O'Neal had 10 of his points in the opening quarter as Miami
opened an eight-point advantage but settled for a 23-21 lead
after 12 minutes. Detroit opened the second quarter with a 15-4
The Pistons led, 45-37, and had the ball just before the half
when Eddie Jones had a steal and buried a 40-foot desperation
shot at the buzzer to draw the Heat within five at the break.
Wade had the AmericanAirlines Arena rocking in the third
quarter, making 5-of-6 shots and scoring 12 of his 20 points in
the period. Miami carried a 66-64 lead into the final 12
minutes and pushed that advantage to 74-68 following a free
throw by Haslem 4:49 into the quarter.
Detroit was able to rally behind its trademark defense, which
held Miami scoreless for the next 3 1/2 minutes and without a
basket for another minute.
"I didn't think we got what we wanted down the stretch," Miami
coach Stan Van Gundy
said. "In a game that close, you have to
execute down the stretch. We didn't. That's why we are where
we are now."
Van Gundy's team did register 59 wins in the regular season but
surrendered 2-1 and 3-2 leads in this series.
"I don't think, from a professional sense, from a basketball
sense, that I've ever been more disappointed," he said. "I'm
not disappointed in my players. I'm just extremely disappointed
with the result. I mean, you fight all year to get this
seventh game at home.
"To get the game here, and then to not be able to come through
with a (six-point) lead in the fourth quarter, I don't know.
It's going to be months of thinking about that and going over
every play. It's just very, very difficult."