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 and Stephen Jackson.

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 has 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."

Richard Hamilton 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 quarter.

"It was a great opportunity for everybody to play," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups 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 warranted."

Wallace scored inside and Rasheed Wallace had consecutive 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 contest.

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 rebounding advantage.

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."