'Sheed, Big Ben, Prince back in the act

The Pistons found their front line being dominant once again on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse in Game 5.

Originally Published: May 30, 2004
By Joe Lago | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Missing for one game at The Palace, the Detroit Pistons found their front line being dominant once again on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse.

Ben Wallace did his usual thing, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking five shots, but it was the return of Rasheed Wallace's and Tayshaun Prince's offense that provided the perfect complement to the perimeter pyrotechnics of Richard Hamilton in an 83-65 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Prince got Detroit started early by scoring five of the team's first seven points and Rasheed Wallace played the role of the closer, producing six straight points to hold off Indiana's fourth-quarter comeback.

Prince had seven of his nine points in the first quarter and Rasheed scored eight of his 22 in the fourth quarter. After combining for 11 points on 5-for-27 shooting, the Pistons' starting bigs rebounded with 32 points on 11-for-26 shooting. They also totaled 11 blocked shots.

"It feels good to bounce back," Prince said. "To put up a performance like we did the last game and come out how we played today, it's just a sign of a great basketball team.

"Obviously, this is not over with. Indiana has showed that they can win in our building, so we've got to make a statement at the end of the game [on Tuesday]."

Pistons coach Larry Brown didn't fiddle with his lineup or resort to gimmicks in response to Rick Carlisle's decision to start Austin Croshere and make Detroit defend another shooter. Instead, Brown made Carlisle pay for that gamble, albeit two days later.

"Every game we go into we try to establish an inside presence," Brown said. "When we take a lot of threes, we tend to fail. When they changed their lineup with Austin the last game, that helped them on the offensive end. Our goal was to put him in situations where he would have to work on defense."

Croshere was forced to roll up his sleeves against Rasheed Wallace. Wallace set the tone early by sinking four jump shots in the first quarter, his last along the baseline when Croshere was too slow to get a hand in Wallace's face.

In Friday's 83-68 loss, Wallace shot 5-of-17 for 10 points. On Sunday, he made eight of 17 attempts from the field, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

"When he puts on a performance like that, that just lets you know his leg is feeling a little bit better," said Prince of Wallace, who has been bothered by plantar fasciitis in his left heel. "We need him to do that in these type of games and these type of situations."

Ben Wallace, who had been a revelation on offense in the playoffs with a newfound jump shot, scored just one point for the second straight game. But his effectiveness was measured as usual with his boardwork and defense. He helped hold the Pacers' front line of Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Croshere to just 9-of-32 shooting.

Artest, who broke out of a shooting slump with a team-high 20 points in Indiana's Game 4 win, was 4-of-15 for 13 points. Croshere, after scoring 14 points Friday, missed all seven of his shots and totaled just two points on a pair of free throws.

"Those guys are All-Stars and when you've got All-Stars like Rasheed and Ben, they're going to play their best ball," Hamilton said. "Coach wasn't worried about them. Nobody was worried about them."

There's no reason to be concerned now -- now that the Pistons know where they are.

Joe Lago is the NBA editor for ESPN.com.

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