Friday , Jun , 03 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Detroit’s back is against the wall

(Sports Network) – The defending world champion Detroit Pistons are one loss
away from becoming the former champions.

In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, top-seeded Miami defeated No. 2
Detroit, 88-76, at AmericanAirlines Arena to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-
seven series. Shaquille O’Neal was 9-of-15 from the floor and finished with 20
points and five rebounds to lead the Heat to the victory.

All-Star guard Dwyane Wade ended with 15 points and four assists for Miami in
Game 5’s win, but he suffered a painful strained rib muscle injury in the
third quarter of the contest. He played only 27 minutes in the victory. One
more victory would give the Heat their first-ever berth in the NBA Finals.

Forward Rasual Butler gave the Heat a big lift off the bench, as he scored 12
points in 23 minutes of court time. Damon Jones netted 15 and dished out six
assists for Miami, while Udonis Haslem scored 14 and pulled down a game-high
13 rebounds.

“Obviously a good, hard fought win for us,” said Miami head coach Stan Van
Gundy after Game 5’s win. “You know, we primarily did it with our defense, I
thought our guys fought real hard. I thought they fought through some foul
trouble in the first quarter, and then I thought that, you know, we fought
through losing Dwyane in the second half, only got nine minutes out of him and
hung in there and played well.

“Really pleased with all of them and particularly just very happy for Rasual
(Butler). He’s been through some tough moments. He started the year starting
for us and then it was a blow to him to come out of the starting lineup. Then
he saw his minutes diminish a lot, wasn’t even getting minutes a lot early in
the playoffs here, but kept working. Now we’ve decided to use him, which some
people keep questioning me on, you know, why he’s playing and the whole thing.
But he had a big game in Game 3 hitting three threes and he had a big game
tonight, and it’s really a credit to his perseverance and I’m very happy for
him. So we will move onto Detroit. We know it will be very difficult up
there, and we’re going to have to play extremely well and at least as hard as
we played tonight.

The Pistons were just 30-of-78 (38.5 percent) from the field in Game 5’s loss,
while the Heat ended 36-for-69 (52.2 percent) from the floor. the defending
world champions were led by Richard Hamilton, who scored a team-high 21 points
and handed out five assists. The 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups netted
19, while Rasheed Wallace struggled and finished with just two points in 27
minutes of action. Hamilton was 7-of-18 from the floor, while Billups ended 7-
for-15.

Wallace, who did collect eight rebounds, was just 1-for-3 from the field and
battled foul trouble throughout the contest.

“He (Wallace) didn’t get to play,” Detroit head coach Larry Brown said after
Game 5’s loss. “He had I think three offensive fouls. It’s tough. You know,
Haslem did a great job on him, and again, I told the TNT people before the
game, when our guards take most of the shots, we have a tendency to struggle.

“In Game 5, I looked up, everybody on the front first team, took double figure
shots. You see how efficient our offense was. Tonight, that didn’t happen. But
they did a great job. I don’t know how Rasheed could have responded in a game
like this. You know, last game he fouls out in 22 minutes, this game he gets
five fouls, and when they’re offensive, it’s hard to be aggressive. I don’t
know what you can do about that.”

Detroit, which did win the opener of this set and has won 21 of its last 23
playoff series when winning Game 1, does have some recent history on its side.
The Pistons have won six straight playoff series when the set was knotted at
2-2 after four games played. That scenario was true in this set.

The Pistons have won two straight games when facing elimination. In last
year’s playoffs, Detroit came back from a 3-2 deficit to defeat New Jersey
in seven games in the conference semifinals.

“We’ve been here before,” said Billups. “Obviously we have to come out and
it’s a one game series, you’ve got to win one game and you can worry about
whatever else. You know, obviously you don’t win one game and it’s over, so
it’s a one game series.”

The Pistons know what it takes to win in the playoffs. They are a playoff-
tested squad that knows how to handle adversity. Even though Detroit’s
back is against the wall, Miami will still have to play a perfect game to
eliminate the defending champions.

DET MIA