Friday , Jun , 11 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Firing on all cylinders: Pistons take 2-1 lead

=== Firing on all cylinders: Pistons take 2-1 lead ===

Detroit, MI (Sports Network) – Richard Hamilton poured in 31 points and
Chauncey Billups scored 19, as Detroit rebounded from a disheartening loss on
Tuesday to pound the Lakers 88-68 in Game 3 at The Palace.

The Pistons, who were hosting an NBA Finals game for the first time in 14
years, avoided a repeat of Kobe Bryant’s heroics in Game 2 by smothering the
Los Angeles offense.

“We came in and just let it go,” Billups said, responding to how the Pistons
reacted to the Game 2 loss. “We came out very aggressive and tried to push
the tempo.”

The Lakers were held under 70 points in the playoffs for the first time in the
shot clock era. In fact, it was the third-lowest point total in an NBA Finals
game since the shot clock’s inception in 1955.

“We have a couple days off to get our feet on the ground,” Lakers coach Phil
Jackson said.

Detroit improved 10-1 when holding their opponent to 80 points or less in this
year’s postseason, and now have a 2-1 series lead with two more home games in
the next five days.

Bryant’s game tying three-pointer in regulation and four points in overtime
led his team to a 99-91 victory in Game 2 — helping the Lakers avoid a
historically deadly 2-0 series hole.

But their would be no heroics in this one by the normally clutch Bryant. He
scored just one point before halftime and ended the game with 11 on 4-of-13
shooting.

Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers with 14 points, but ended his record streak of
scoring at least 25 points in 21 straight NBA Finals games. He also racked up
five fouls for the second straight game.

Karl Malone played 18 minutes on the sprained right MCL he suffered in Game 2
and scored just five points. Gary Payton, who like Malone joined the Lakers in
the offseason for a chance to win his first NBA title, scored six points in 35
minutes — a high for him in this series.

The Pistons, in front of a frenzied crowd, opened the game with an 8-0 run and
never trailed.

“We’re a great unit,” Billups said. “They have great individual players, but
we’re just a great unit.”

Detroit posted 11 steals — with Tayshaun Prince and veteran Elden Campbell
getting three apiece — and outrebounded the Lakers by a 51-39 margin.

“They played excellent defense and we didn’t execute,” Bryant said. “We let
them rush us to decisions.”

The Lakers pulled within 14-13 after the early Pistons run, but they trailed
24-16 heading into the second quarter and never seemed to have much of a
chance against their underdog opponent.

The Pistons opened up a 13-point lead early in the second quarter on a Corliss
Williamson bucket before the Lakers pulled as close as five. But LA had no
answer for Detroit’s solid two-way play, and fell behind 39-32 heading into
the locker room at halftime.

Bryant missed all four of his shots in the first half.

In the third quarter, Billups hit a three-pointer inside the 9:00 mark for a
52-40 lead — and the Pistons would lead by double digits the rest of the way.

Prince threw down a rebound dunk moments later before Bryant hit his first
field goal of the game at the other end. That shot came at 7:34 of the period.

Detroit then rolled out a 16-point lead on Hamilton’s bucket with less than
five minutes remaining in the third, its largest lead of the quarter.

“I think most of it was effort related,” O’Neal said. “We had a horrible third
quarter.”

The Pistons went ahead by 19 points early in the fourth when Campbell, after a
steal at the other end, hustled down court for a dunk to make it 70-51. The
home crowd erupted after the play, and it was clear that LA was far from
another comeback.

Detroit would lead by 20 points several times before winning the game by that
margin.

DET LAL