Pistons edge Heat
Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) - Richard Hamilton paced a balanced Detroit attack with 19 points as the Pistons edged Miami, 94-88, at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Hamilton, the Pistons leading scorer, returned to the lineup after missing four games with flu-like symptoms.
Chauncey Billups added 17 points for the Pistons, who continue to sit atop the Central Division and own the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Rasheed Wallace chipped in with 14 points while Antonio McDyess and Carlos Delfino both dropped in 12 off the bench.
Shaquille O'Neal tallied 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the Heat, who fell into a tie atop the Southeast Division with Washington pending the Wizards game against Milwaukee. Jason Williams tallied 21 points and Udonis Haslem had 15 points and eight rebounds.
The Pistons entered the final frame down by four and fell down by as many as nine before reeling off a 14-0 flurry to forge back in front. McDyess' bank shot finished the rally with Detroit in front, 83-78, with 4:55 left.
Miami finally recovered over the next 1 1/2 minutes and Haslem's tip-in deadlocked things at 83.
Things remained even as the game headed toward the stretch until Hamilton's stop-and-go mid-range jumper put the Pistons on top, 87-85, with a little less than two minutes on the clock.
The Heat answered by getting the ball down on the blocks to O'Neal. The big man was fouled and made 1-of-2 from the line to make it a one-point game, 87-86.
Detroit had the answer as Billups rose up and stuck a jumper from the top of the key with 1:15 left.
Miami had a chance to tie on the ensuing possession but James Posey came up short on a three and Wallace sealed things with a slick jumper from the free throw line.
The Heat used a stifling defense to run out to a 24-12 lead but the Pistons bridged the first and second quarters with a 16-2 run to get right back in it. Flip Murray's dunk capped the burst and gave the Pistons a 28-26 advantage with 7:41 left until intermission,
Miami recovered from there and finished the half strongly, taking a 46-41 lead into the locker room.
The Heat continued to play frontrunner through three quarters, 69-65.
Detroit and Miami have been the participants in the last two Eastern Conference finals. The Heat knocked out the Pistons in six games during last year's conference finals, while Detroit defeated Miami in seven games in the 2005 East finals...Detroit is 23-13 as the host this season...Miami has lost three straight and eight of its last nine at Detroit.DET MIA