'We will win Game 2'
"That's all I'm saying, people. We will win Game 2," Wallace announced, repeating the second sentence several times as he was set upon by a media mob upon his entrance to practice.
Wallace issued that same guarantee Saturday night after the Pistons dropped Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday night.
Indiana coach Rick Carlisle and his players acknowledged taking note of the boast but gave no indication they took great offense. It remains to be seen whether they're seething privately.
Wallace is the latest in a long line of athletes -- beginning with Joe Namath at the 1969 Super Bowl -- to utter the dreaded "g-word."
"I guarantee that there's going to be a Game 2, and that someone's going to win it. And I guarantee that Rasheed will probably be in the game and I won't," Pacers forward Scot Pollard quipped.
"I guarantee we'll be wearing white jerseys and they'll wear their road jerseys. If nobody wins, the fans will get their money back -- that's a guarantee."
Wallace, historically uncooperative with reporters, had little else to say other than repeating the statement: "We will win Game 2." A question about his ailing left foot was met with silence, and a query about his opinion of Jermaine O'Neal elicited only a cursory reply.
Wallace was largely ineffective in Game 1, shooting 1-for-7 with three turnovers and five fouls -- many of them questionable calls.
"Knowing him, he feels responsible for the game last night," Detroit coach Larry Brown said. "But again, the guy's in foul trouble right off the bat in almost every game. And it's kind of hard to play that way when the guy you're playing against never gets a foul.
"Offensively, in the first 13 minutes, he only touched the ball once, so I don't know how you're going to be very productive in that regard."
The Pistons got the bulk of their offense from their backcourt, shooting guard Richard Hamilton scored 23 and point guard Chauncey Billups added 18. The reserves contributed only nine points, as did starting small forward Tayshaun Prince, and Wallace scored only four.
Reggie Miller's tiebreaking 3-pointer with 31.7 seconds was the biggest shot of the game as the Pacers won despite being held to 30 points in the second half.
"I really don't know what's in Rasheed's head," Miller said in response to the day's preferred line of questioning.
Artest said, "A lot of guys talk in the world. This is just another guy talking in the world."
O'Neal went to dinner after the game with Wallace and another former teammate from their Portland days, Bonzi Wells, but O'Neal didn't find out about the guarantee until Sunday morning because they didn't talk basketball.
"A guarantee makes it that much harder. That's the negative part of making a comment like that. You have to be able to back up whatever you say," O'Neal said.
Before practicing, the Pistons watched videotape of their offensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter. After Mehmet Okur's 10-footer gave Detroit a 68-65 lead with 7:45 remaining, the Pistons missed 11 of their final 12 shots.
"Having to watch tape like that, it's somewhat embarrassing to see what really happened, to see our body language," Ben Wallace said. "The tape don't blink."
More low-scoring affairs can be expected from two teams that shun the fast break in favor of slowed-down, halfcourt sets.
Neither team made it to 80 points in Game 1, which also happened a year ago when the New Jersey Nets defeated the Pistons 76-74 in the opener of the conference finals.
Saturday night's loss extended Detroit's losing streak in conference finals games to nine straight, the franchise's last victory coming in 1990 against the Chicago Bulls in Game 7.
It's a guaranteed fact that Rasheed Wallace was 15 years old at the time, and it's a safe bet that he'd decline to discuss his memories of that game if in fact he had any.
It's also fair to predict that Wallace won't be in a chatty mood if the Pistons lose again before the series shifts to Detroit.
Better yet, put that one down as a guarantee, too.
"It's our job as teammates to rally around him and make sure he's right," Corliss Williamson said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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