Pistons vow to bounce back

Originally Published: June 9, 2004
Associated Press

DETROIT -- The Detroit Pistons returned home vowing to shake off Kobe Bryant's last-second, game-tying 3-pointer and Los Angeles Lakers' Game 2 overtime win that evened the NBA Finals.

"The hangover was last night," Pistons coach Larry Brown said Wednesday. "That's over. We went to L.A. and gave ourselves a chance to win two games against a great team. That's the way we're going to look at it."

Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal combined for all of the Lakers' points in overtime and Los Angeles won 99-91.

The series shifts to The Palace of Auburn Hills for games on Thursday, Sunday and Tuesday.

The 3-pointer Bryant launched over high school rival Richard Hamilton left some wondering if the All-Star should have gotten a chance to get the shot off.

After the game, Brown had to defend his decision to not foul Bryant -- or O'Neal, who unexpectedly took the inbounds pass -- before Bryant tied the game with just over two seconds left.

The Pistons defended their Hall of Fame coach on Wednesday and placed the blame on themselves.

"Coach is always going to take a bulk of the criticism, but Coach ain't hitting no shots and Coach ain't making no turnovers," center Ben Wallace said.

The Pistons led 89-83 before O'Neal scored on a putback and free throw with 35.9 seconds to go, followed by Bryant's 3-pointer.

"We should have grabbed a couple of more rebounds before that play [Bryant's 3] happened," forward Rasheed Wallace said. "We should have made a couple of shots before that play happened."

The Pistons might have had their spirits broken by Bryant and the Lakers in Game 2, but otherwise they appear to be in much better shape than Los Angeles. The Lakers are nursing injuries to Karl Malone and Derek Fisher.

Fisher is hobbling with a sore right knee and has trouble driving the lane or guarding the most athletic opponents. Malone sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in Game 2 but played 39 minutes.

He would not commit Wednesday to playing in Game 3, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he expected to have him in the lineup -- perhaps wearing a knee brace.

Despite the devastating loss, the underdog Pistons have proved to be a much tougher opponent for the Lakers than most expected.

"We can play with anybody in the league and we're here," Rasheed Wallace said. "Granted they're a good team, but we ain't scared of nobody. I don't know why all you cats think we're scared of the Lakers or that the Lakers are this dominant force. We ain't scared of those cats, man."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press