Friday , May , 26 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Prince, Billups help Pistons even series with Heat

Detroit, MI (Sports Network) – Chauncey Billups scored all 18 of his points in
the second half and hit four clutch free throws in the final 23.8 seconds, as
the Detroit Pistons nearly blew an 18-point third-quarter lead before holding
on for a 92-88 victory over the Miami Heat to even the Eastern Conference
finals.

The Heat earned a 91-86 victory in Game 1 Tuesday night, but couldn’t contain
the front line of Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace in Game 2. Prince had 24
points and 11 rebounds, while Wallace tallied 16 points and seven boards.

Richard Hamilton had 22 points and Ben Wallace pulled down 12 boards for the
Pistons, who are in the East finals for a fourth straight season and are in a
rematch with the Heat from last year’s conference finals.

“I would like to see us finish the game the way we started, but we know guys
are going to keep playing until the very end,” Ben Wallace said. “They made
some tough shots down the end.”

Dwyane Wade tallied 32 points and seven assists, but also had nine turnovers
for the Heat. Shaquille O’Neal, who added 21 points and 12 rebounds, received
a scare in the fourth after landing awkwardly on his left foot and then
accidentally receiving a knee to the head from teammate Antoine Walker.

“We got what we wanted offensively, even though they did turn the pressure up
a little bit,” Wade said. “It was defensively early on. The way we started the
night, they were making a lot of shots early on and got them into a groove.
That was a big difference in the game.”

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday at Miami.

The Heat scored 17 points in the last 1:46 before the defending Eastern
Conference champions held on. It was a frantic finish, one that featured a
missed timeout call and a spectacular shot from Wade.

“It was like watching Miami the other night against us,” Detroit head coach
Flip Saunders said. “What happens so many times, you get near the end of the
game, you start playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”

Billups’ two free throws boosted Detroit to a 90-83 lead with 23.8 seconds
left, but Walker scored a quick layup. Prince then couldn’t get the ball
inbounds and called for time, but referee Dick Bavetta didn’t grant the
stoppage and instead signaled for a five-second call, giving possession to
Miami.

Jason Williams missed a three-pointer from the right corner, but Wade got the
ball at the other side, and nearly falling out of bounds, drained a rainbow
shot to bring the Heat within 90-88 with 9.8 seconds left.

“I was calling timeout,” Prince said. “I think from Dick’s point of view, I
mean, he didn’t tell me this, but I think he was so aware of what was going on
in bounds that he wasn’t paying attention to me.”

Billups, who ended 7-of-7 at the foul line, hit two more from the charity
stripe with 8.7 seconds to go, and Lindsey Hunter stole the ball from Wade to
end the contest.

“I’m going to that offense at the beginning of the game and find out exactly
what we were doing to score 17 points,” Heat head coach Pat Riley said.

Miami started Tuesday’s game on an 11-0 run, but the Pistons turned the tables
on Riley’s squad in Game 2. A spurt of 13 straight points moved Detroit
ahead for good at 18-6. Miami missed seven shots during the 3 1/2-minute span.
That included a botched alley-oop jam by O’Neal.

Prince’s three-pointer capped the push, extending the Pistons to the 12-point
lead with 4:55 left in the quarter. Detroit shot 55.6 percent in the opening
12 minutes to lead 25-12, while holding the Heat to 5-of-20 from the field in
the period.

Eight straight points by the Heat had them within 32-26 midway through the
second. Wade scored 14 points in the quarter, but Miami was still behind 48-37
at the half. The Pistons scored the last seven points of the half, including a
three-pointer from Hamilton with 3.6 seconds left.

Rasheed Wallace had nine of his points in the third quarter, as the Pistons
widened the margin to 70-56 going into the fourth. The lead never dipped into
single digits in the stanza and reach as high as 18 in the third, the last
time at 66-48 following a Rasheed Wallace three with 3:07 remaining.

O’Neal was stunned with 5:03 left. Trying to fend off a Prince shot, O’Neal
landed hard on his left leg, and at the same time Walker crashed into the lane
with his knee slamming into O’Neal’s head. O’Neal remained on his hands and
knees for about a minute, but remained in the game.

Prince scored all of Detroit’s points over the first nine-plus minutes of the
fourth.

Game Notes

Miami had won five straight Game 2s in the postseason…The last time the
Pistons lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was in the 2004 playoffs.
Detroit went on to win that series 4-2 over the Indiana Pacers en route to the
NBA title…Wade has recorded double-figure points in his last 38 postseason
games, a Heat franchise record…Detroit, which was outshot (56.3% – 37.8%) in
Game 1, held a slim advantage (44% – 42.5%) in Game 2…Walker had 11 points
on 3-of-12 shooting…Miami had won its last five playoff games…Billups had
eight assists and Hamilton tied his career playoff-best with four
steals…Prince equaled his career playoff-high for points.

DET MIA