Pistons stuff Miami's bid to end series in five games

Thursday, June 1, 2006

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Shaquille O'Neal was about to throw down another backboard-shaking dunk.

Ben Wallace wasn't having it.

The 6-foot-9 Wallace leaped and stuffed O'Neal -- forcing a jump ball, putting the 7-1 O'Neal on his back and sparking Detroit's defense that refused to let the Pistons' season end.

"It was a big play -- a momentum-changer," Wallace said of the third-quarter block.

"You know it was a foul," O'Neal said. "Don't ask dumb questions."

Whatever, the Pistons got back to their swarming ways when the Miami Heat had the ball, and Tayshaun Prince scored a career playoff-high 29 points to lift Detroit to a 91-78 win Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Heat did not score in the final 3 1/2 minutes while Detroit pulled away with the last nine points of the game. Miami also hurt itself by going 6-for-20 from the free throw line.

"We just came out aggressive like we talked about and played Pistons basketball," Chauncey Billups said. "There's pressure on them now, now that they are home."

Miami hosts Game 6 on Friday night with a chance to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. If the Miami loses, Game 7 will be Sunday in Detroit.

"Ain't no pressure on us at all, we have a golden opportunity to win Game 6 on our home floor," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "They're the defending conference champions; there's no pressure on us."

Wade scored a series-low 23 points -- eight below his previous series average -- and O'Neal had 19 points for the Heat.

"They played hard and like a desperate team," Wade said.

Billups had 17 points and 10 assists, Richard Hamilton had 16 points and a career playoff-high 10 rebounds, and reserve Antonio McDyess provided a boost with 10 of his 12 points coming after halftime.

"Everybody brought energy," Prince said. "When we move, we're a better basketball team."

Miami trailed by as much as 11 in the first half but made it 51-51 early in the third quarter.

Detroit's defense created a little cushion in what was a tightly contested game for much of the night.

Prince had a steal and a dunk, then on the ensuing possession Wallace brought the crowd to its feet with his eye-popping play -- no matter what O'Neal thought of it.

About a minute later, Wallace's three-point play gave the Pistons a 60-53 lead.

Detroit was ahead 73-65 after three quarters, and Prince had already tied his career playoff-high with 24 points. The Pistons stayed in control during the final quarter.

"They took their defense up to another level," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "It was very intense."

History says the Heat will reach the NBA Finals for the first time. Teams leading conference or division finals 3-1, like Miami was against Detroit, have advanced 40 of 43 times and 16 straight.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: