Monday , Jun , 14 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Pistons push Lakers to the brink of elimination

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Rasheed Wallace scored 26 points and
grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Detroit over the Los Angeles Lakers, 88-80, in
Game 4 of the NBA Finals at The Palace.

Chauncey Billups added 23 points for the Pistons, who took a convincing 3-1
lead in the best-of-seven set. Detroit now has history on its side, as no team
has ever come back to win the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 in the series.

Shaquille O’Neal recorded his playoff highs on the season with 36 points and
20 boards for the Lakers, who had won 13 straight Game 4s in the postseason.
It was the first time LA lost a Game 4 since falling to the Suns on May 14,
2000 at Phoenix.

Kobe Bryant netted 20 points for the Lakers, but only shot 8-of-25 from the
field.

“I think he rushed his shots a little bit, said Laker coach Phil Jackson. “But
they are collapsing well on his penetration. But he is not shooting the ball
well right now.”

Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday again in Michigan where Detroit, which was
seeded third in the East, can win its first title since 1990 when it defeated
the Portland Trail Blazers.

“I think everyone is a little down right now,” said Bryant. “But the important
thing is we have to win the next game and go from there.”

The Pistons only outshot the Lakers from the field 43 percent to 42 percent,
but got to the foul line 41 times, compared to only 22 attempts to the stripe
for the Lakers.

The game was tight through the first three quarters with no team leading by
more than five and it being deadlocked at 56-56 after 36 minutes.

But Detroit outscored Los Angeles 32-24 in the fourth en route to the victory.
The Pistons only led by two with 9:24 remaining, but then went on a critical
15-7 run to go up by double-digits and they cruised to the victory. Billups
capped the burst on a free throw with 4:52 left.

Bryant scored on a layup through the lane with 1:18 to play to cut the deficit
to six at 84-78.

However, that was as close as the Lakers would get as Detroit sealed it by
scoring the next four points.

No team led by more than three in the first quarter and LA took a slim 22-21
edge heading into the second. Bryant tallied the first Laker bucket, but
was blanked the rest of the quarter.

O’Neal led all first-quarter scorers with 10 points, while the Lakers got a
much-need six points from Gary Payton in the opening 12 minutes. Payton, who
joined the Lakers in the offseason for a chance to win his first NBA title,
was held scoreless in the first quarter of the previous three games in the
series.

The entire first half was very tight, but the Pistons went into the
intermission on an 8-3 spurt to take a 41-39 lead.

The Pistons got to the foul line 23 times, but shot less then 35 percent from
the field in the opening 24 minutes.

“In the first half we are out of the game, if we don’t go to the free throw
line,” said Detroit coach Larry Brown, who is seeking his first NBA title.

O’Neal posted 17 points and 12 boards in the first half.

The third quarter was also very close with the largest margin being four when
Detroit held a 54-50 edge with 4:44 left. But the Lakers drew even again,
making it a 56-56 contest heading into the final 12 minutes.

Karl Malone, who is suffering from a knee injury, only scored two points in
21 minutes for the Lakers.

LA’s Luke Walton fouled out with 6:03 remaining. Walton was held without any
points in 12 minutes of play.

Detroit, which is 4-0 all-time in Game 4s in the NBA Finals, is an impressive
12-1 when it holds its opponent to 80 points or less in this year’s
postseason.

DET LAL