AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 25 (Ticker) -- Ben Wallace revved up the
motivational motor of the Detroit Pistons, who had just enough
to reach the finish line.
Wallace unleashed the early energy and Tayshaun Prince provided
the offensive punch with 24 points as the Pistons evened the
Eastern Conference finals at a game apiece by holding on for a
92-88 victory over the Miami Heat.
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Richard Hamilton scored 20 of his 22 points in the first half
for the top-seeded Pistons, who bounced back from a dispirited
loss in Game 1 and dealt the second-seeded Heat their first
road setback since April 30.
"I think our focus was a little better tonight," Wallace said.
"Everybody was on the same page."
After winning six of their first seven playoff games, the
Pistons fell into a funk that saw them endure their first
three-game losing streak of the season and be pushed to the
limit by the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference
Monday's loss to Miami was their fourth in six games, a stretch
during which they averaged just 80.3 points and displayed an
uncharacteristic lack of determination and focus.
Wallace has earned four Defensive Player of the Year Awards and
five All-Star berths with his boundless energy, primarily on the
defensive end. He added some unexpected offense as well,
scoring seven points as Detroit bolted to an 18-6 lead and never
"When I get involved on offense, it forces the other team to
keep a guy on me and not allow him to roll around me," Wallace
said. "It opens things up for my teammates. Rip (Hamilton) and
Chauncey (Billups) made a couple passes that got me some layups
and I was able to get good looks. When we've got everybody
involved, it makes it tougher on the defense than we're playing
four against five."
"We need to make Ben an offensive threat," Hamilton said.
"Sometimes they don't guard him."
In all, Wallace had nine points, 12 rebounds, three assists and
a block. He even made a free throw, something he has done just
11 times in 46 tries in the postseason.
"Ben played with energy tonight," Pistons coach Flip Saunders
said. "When he feels that he's a part of things, he's more
energized. We had to get back to our equal opportunity offense.
Ben just wasn't scoring, but he was making good passes, too."
The quick start helped Detroit open a 25-12 lead after one
period. Miami whittled the deficit to 41-37 late in the second
quarter before Wallace dunked and Hamilton made a layup and
3-pointer to close the half and rebuild the lead to 48-37.
"We came out and got the ball moving," Wallace said. "We forced
(Miami) to play the way we like to play. Anytime we can take
the tempo of the game, I like our chances."
Detroit maintained a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter,
when it began to sputter again but was kept moving forward by
Prince, who scored 10 points in the period. For the first nine
minutes, he was the only Piston to score from the floor.
"When we're going through a drought or we're getting out of
sync, I try to tell Chauncey to let me try to get something
going to the basket or get to the foul line," said Prince, who
made 10-of-20 shots and added 11 rebounds. "I've just been in a
situation where I've been getting some offensive rebounds and
doing the little things to get my game going."
"He's played like that since a couple weeks after the All-Star
break," Saunders said. "He's making good basketball decisions.
He's the one (starter) that didn't make the All-Star Game, but
he's been playing like an All-Star since then."
The Heat drew within 77-71 and had a chance to get closer, but
James Posey and Dwyane Wade missed 3-pointers. A 3-pointer by
Rasheed Wallace and a jumper by Billups made it 83-71 with 2:01
remaining, allowing the Pistons to relax again.
Miami made it interesting, scoring 17 points in the final 1:46.
The Heat forced a five-second violation and Wade threw in a
3-pointer to cut it to 90-88 with 9.8 seconds to play, but
Billups sealed it with two free throws.
"At the end of the game, we started playing not to lose,"
Saunders said. "You just want for the clock to keep moving.
Then you lose some of the concepts you had been using."
"You can't dig yourself into a hole against a Detroit team
because that team will not beat themselves," Wade said. "You
have to beat them."
Billups had 18 points and eight assists and Rasheed Wallace
scored 16 points for the Pistons, who shot 44 percent
(33-of-75). They will try to regain home-court advantage in
Miami on Saturday.
Wade scored 32 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 21 and 12
rebounds for the Heat, who shot 42.5 percent (31-of-73). Wade
committed nine of Miami's 19 turnovers.
"We just were a step slow," O'Neal said. "We know they're the
best team in the East and we knew they were going to regroup and
Unlike Game 1, Wade and O'Neal did not get much help from
their role players. The quartet of Antoine Walker,
Jason Williams, Gary Payton and Posey combined for 31 points on
9-of-30 shooting after producing 46 points on 18-of-30 in the
"You have those nights where guys you count on don't shoot well
and then you're going to be in trouble," Heat coach Pat Riley
said. "We had that tonight. We have to have three or four guys
play well. It doesn't necessarily mean that they have to score
points, but play well and contribute."
"I think they missed some open shots, but if you don't give them
easy baskets, they don't have the confidence to make the open
shots," Saunders said. "We made some adjustments. We made a
conscious effort to choke off their role-type players."