AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 14 (Ticker) --
With a brave boost from the backcourt of Richard Hamilton
and Chauncey Billups
, the defending champion Detroit Pistons
showed the San Antonio Spurs they are prepared to duel to
the end with a determined 96-79 victory in Game 3 of the
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Returning home, the Pistons used heart, hustle and some hard
fouls to stay alive in the series. They shut down both
and Manu Ginobili
as they turned the tables on the Spurs,
who had dominated all facets in winning the first two games.
"That's how they play. That's who they are," Spurs coach
Hamilton scored 24 points as he shook free of the shadow of
and rediscovered his jumper. He sank 11-of-23 shots
and opened the court for his teammates by running around
screens all game.
"We have to come out here and help each other out," Hamilton
said. "We have to be the ones that are aggressive, and I think
we did that tonight."
"Most of our good shots come off the screen situations or making
the extra pass," Pistons coach Larry Brown
said. "We're not a
dribble-drive or post-up team, so to speak, like them, and
that's where Rip is at his best."
Billups, the Finals MVP a year ago, added 20 points and seven
assists as he provided direction and a spark for what had been a
struggling offense. He made 6-of-12 shots, including all three
of Detroit's 3-pointers.
"You know how big this game is, you know what it means and you
know the kind of desperation," Billups said. "You've got to play
"Whenever there is a big play to make, he is the guy they are
going to look to make it," Duncan said.
Together, the guards helped the Pistons become the first team to
hang more than 90 points on the Spurs in any of their 14 Finals
"I think that our offensive execution by far was the best
tonight," Brown said. "Maybe it's the best it's been in the
playoffs because of the quality of the opponent."
The quality was lacking for the Spurs. They were caught with
their guard down in the form of Ginobili, who had strafed the
Pistons for 53 points in the first two games but was limited to
seven on 2-of-6 shooting.
Ginobili's aggressiveness was limited by a bruised knee and
twisted ankle both suffered in the first half. He was on the
receiving end of some hard fouls and was tracked better by
"It was hard for me to come back into the game after being on
the bench for a couple of minutes," said Ginobili, who had six
turnovers. "My leg gets cold, so it's hard to warm it up again.
But ... I just didn't play well.
Duncan had 14 points and 10 rebounds but made just 5-of-15 shots
as he was hounded by Ben Wallace
, who emerged from his funk to
collect 15 points, 11 boards and five blocks - all in the first
quarter as he set the tone.
"There was nothing wrong with me," Wallace said. "I just wasn't
playing as active as I should be playing. I just went out
tonight and played better basketball than I played in those
first two basketball games."
"I don't know if it was a home-cooked meal or sleeping in his
own bed, but his energy level, it was like night and day,"
Prince and Antonio McDyess
scored 12 points each for the
Pistons, who shot 47 percent (40-of-85) and won all the hustle
and muscle stats, including a 44-37 edge on the glass that led
to 20 second-chance points.
Game 4 is in Detroit on Thursday, and the Pistons
have some guarded optimism.
"I think our guys have unbelievable respect for them and realize
it's going to take our very best to make this a competitive
series," Brown said.
The Spurs weathered the early energy provided by the sellout
crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills and Wallace. They held a
27-21 lead after one quarter and withstood a four-minute drought
in the second period to cling to a 42-41 halftime lead.
In addition to Ginobili getting dinged twice, there was more
rough stuff. Bowen hit Hamilton in the face after coming around
a screen and Billups clobbered Parker in the head to stop a
With Duncan off the floor, the Spurs scored seven straight
points to take a 56-54 lead. They still held a 63-61 edge when
Popovich rested point guard Tony Parker
, who scored 21 points.
The Pistons turned up the pressure on rookie Beno Udrih
forged a 9-2 run to take the lead for good.
"We tried to give Tony Parker
a rest for one minute and the dam
burst from that point on," Popovich said.
Billups sank a 3-pointer and reverse layup to jump-start an 11-0
surge. Hamilton capped it at 84-69 with a jumper at the 6:37
"I've got to pick my spots when to be aggressive and when not
to," Billups said. "That was a point where I wanted to be
aggressive during that little spurt."
Another jumper by Hamilton made it 90-76, giving the Pistons the
magic number and sealing matters with 3:14 to play.