Big Benís Block Ices It As Pistons Edge Pacers
Detroit 75, Indiana 72
INDIANAPOLIS, March 24 (Ticker) -- All-Star Ben Wallace showed why he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Wallace blocked rookie Danny Granger's 3-pointer on the final possession as the Detroit Pistons barely escaped with a 75-72 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
"I was able to get the block and we got the win, but it never should have come down to that," said Wallace, who scored just three points and made 1-of-8 free throws. "We played terrible down the stretch."
"When Ben struggles, sometimes that motivates him at the defensive end," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He gets the attitude that if I'm not going to score, then you aren't going to score."
Trailing by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, Indiana rallied within 72-66 on a 3-pointer by Granger with 5:11 left.
All-Star Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley both made a pair free throws to help the Pacers close the gap at 74-72 with 27 seconds remaining. O'Neal scored eight points in his second game since returning from a groin injury.
Wallace, who missed his first six foul shots, had a chance to give the Pistons a four-point advantage but split two foul shots with four seconds to go.
"After throwing eight (free throws) up there, you are bound to hit one," Wallace said. "It is what it is."
However, the four-time All-Star redeemed himself with his block on Granger.
"The play wasn't designed for me," Granger said. "I thought we were going to get a five-second call. I just went and got the ball, but there wasn't much I could do with it. He (Wallace) knew we needed a three, so he knew I wasn't going to drive by him. There just wasn't much there."
"They defended it well, but we can't rely on last plays to win," said Pacers forward Peja Stojakovic, who scored 12 points.
Both teams went without a basket over the final four minutes.
A reverse layup by Anthony Johnson gave Indiana a 42-42 tie early in the third quarter before Detroit closed the quarter with an 18-7 run. During the stretch, Richard Hamilton scored six of his 15 points and Tayshaun Prince added five, four rebounds and a steal.
"The second and third quarters hurt us defensively," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "We struggled and had some stretches where we couldn't stop them. Detroit is a team that is going to do a good job in the last play type of situations, but I'm more in tune to what happened in the second and third quarters than on the last play."
Prince and Antonio McDyess scored 11 points apiece and Rasheed Wallace added 10 and three blocks for Detroit, which shot 38 percent (31-of-80) from the field and scored just six points in the paint.
The Pistons (55-13) extended their lead to two games over San Antonio (53-15) for the NBA's best record and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
"I'm sure they get up to play us," said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, who scored just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. "Anytime you have the best team in the league coming into your building, you know that's the case."
David Harrison scored 14 points and Stephen Jackson added 13 for the Pacers, who shot 41 percent (30-of-72) but made just 3-of-13 from the arc.