Tuesday , May , 24 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Detroit wins with defense

(Sports Network) – Detroit took a 1-0 lead against No. 1 Miami in the best-
of-seven Eastern Conference finals, as Rasheed Wallace scored 20 points
and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Pistons to a 90-81 victory over the
Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Wallace played 30 minutes, blocked a team-high three shots and was 7-of-10
from the field, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc for the defending world
champions. Chauncey Billups, who was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals, finished
with 18 points and five assists, while Richard Hamilton netted 16 in 46
minutes of action.

The Pistons played great defense against the explosive Heat, as they held
Miami under 99 points for the first time in this year’s playoffs. The Heat,
who earned four-game sweeps against New Jersey and Washington in rounds one
and two, had scored at least 100 points in seven of their first eight
postseason contests.

Miami’s All-Star guard Dwyane Wade was a dismal 7-of-25 (28 percent) from the
floor in Game 1, and finished with 16 points, which is his lowest total in
this year’s playoffs, and four assists. Shaquille O’Neal, who has been
bothered by a thigh injury and did not play in Games 3 and 4 in the semis
versus the Wizards, ended with 20 points and five rebounds.

“We played a pretty good game, we just made a lot of stupid mental errors,”
said O’Neal after Game 1’s loss. “Not all of the guys have been in a game so
hard fought. It was a test for us. We’ve had it too easy for too long. Now
that we have a test, we have to come out and fight. We had a lot of
opportunities to win the game, but we just didn’t we’ve just got to go back
and look at the tape, make adjustments and come out and do what we gotta do,
do what we’re supposed to do. We took a lot of good shots, but Eddie (Jones)
shot one that went in and out.

“I missed a couple of hooks, but we’ve just gotta take the opportune shots,
especially in a game in the fourth quarter when there are still a lot of
opportunities to win the game. And you know, this is nothing but a test for
us, and we’re not going to hang our heads now, we’re just going to continue to

Eddie Jones led the Heat with 22 points and eight rebounds in Game 1. He was
9-of-13 from the field, including 3-for-4 from three-point range.

The Heat, who trailed the Pistons 44-43 at halftime of the opener, scored
just 14 points in the fourth quarter and a total of 38 in the second half.
Miami made just under 47 percent of its shots from the field and committed
nine turnovers in the contest.

“Well, I thought defensively we guarded about as well as we could the whole
game,” said Detroit head coach Larry Brown after Game 1’s victory. “You know,
when they made the run, we kind of got a little bit quick and maybe went a
little bit one on one and got them some easy baskets.

“We knew they were going to come back, and when they did, we just limited them
to one shot, got some turnovers, got some blocks, got a charge. We did all the
things I think you would hope to do down the stretch. I think both teams are a
lot alike on the defensive end. They’re hard to score against, and I’m hopeful
that we are. We really executed down the stretch, used the clock good, never
gave them much opportunities to run other than that one brief moment. So good
win for us.

Forward Tayshaun Prince and Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace were also
solid for Detroit in Game 1s’ win. Prince scored 13 points in 42 minutes of
court time, while All-Star center Ben Wallace netted 13, pulled down a game-
high 13 boards and blocked two shots.

Prince frustrated Wade defensively, and that may have been his biggest
contribution in Game 1s victory.

“You know, it’s tough, tried to just keep him (Wade) in front of me for the
most part,” said Prince. “He’s a lot quicker than me. I just tried to use my
length as an advantage and make him take shots over me and try to keep my
defenders as close as I possibly can. That’s tough to do in pick and rolls. My
guys behind me have been ready to help when he’d get past me and things like
that, so it definitely helped.

History would not be on Miami’s side if it loses Game 2, as it has never
come back to win a playoff series after dropping the first two games of
the set. Detroit, which has won 21 of its last 23 playoff series when winning
Game 1, has never lost a set after winning Games 1 and 2.

Miami will try and put Game 1’s loss behind them.

“Very tough in a playoff and tough to lose at home,” said Wade. “You’ve got to
come here tomorrow and learn from it, but at the same time, we learn from what
we did wrong and we learn from what we did right and we take that into Game 2.

The Pistons frustrated Wade and did not allow Shaq to dominate. Their defense
was once again the main reason they came away with an important playoff
victory in Game 1. Detroit knows what makes it win, and that is defense.