Pistons' lanky wing causing problems

Updated: June 11, 2004, 6:49 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kobe Bryant is finding out the same thing that NBA superstars such as Reggie Miller and Tracy McGrady discovered when they took on Tayshaun Prince.

With a slender 6-foot-9, 215-pound body and incredibly long arms, the Detroit defender is tough to score against.

In the two wins by Prince and the Pistons over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, Bryant has made just 14 of 40 shots.

In the Lakers' victory, Bryant made 14 of 27 attempts, including the overtime-forcing 3-pointer -- over Richard Hamilton -- with 2.1 seconds left in regulation.

"I try not to let him catch the ball in spots where he likes to get the ball," Prince said Friday. "When he does get it, I just try to keep him in front of me, and make him take tough shots."

With a 2-1 lead, the Pistons will host Game 4 on Sunday night and Game 5 on Tuesday.

Prince acknowledged he's reluctant to receive too much publicity for his play against Bryant.

"It doesn't do nothing but make that guy a lot more hungry to come out and play a lot more aggressive," he said.

In Thursday's loss, Bryant didn't make a field goal until midway through the third quarter and was held to a playoff-low 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

Bryant missed 17 of 27 shots and scored 25 points in Game 1, which Detroit won 87-75. He scored 33 in the Lakers' overtime victory in Game 2.

"In the first game, I was able to make an adjustment to his length and he came back in the second game with a better effort," Bryant said. "In the third game, they made the adjustment whereas when I get by him to go pull a jump shot, they have another defender there."

When the series was in Los Angeles, Prince spoke to students at Dominguez High School in nearby Compton, where he was a star basketball player before attending Kentucky.

At times, N.W.A.'s 1990 rap hit "Straight Outta Compton" blares at The Palace after Prince swats a shot, or makes one.

"There's definitely a lot of Lakers fans in Compton," he said. "But since I've played for the Pistons, there are a lot of people out there that are cheering for me -- and the Pistons. Then, there are people who are cheering for me, but want the Lakers to win."

Prince is an anomaly in the NBA.

The lanky small forward has a college degree after staying four years at Kentucky.

As a rookie last year in the first round against Orlando, Prince went from sitting on the bench to playing a key role in Detroit's run to the conference finals.

Prince shut down McGrady, a key reason Detroit became just the seventh team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-1.

"To get some experience against a guy like that definitely helped me," Prince said. "Not just in this series against a guy like Kobe, but it helped me in the first round, second and third round.

"I've been facing some tough guys in this whole playoff run."

Prince slowed down Indiana's Ron Artest in the Eastern Conference finals after doing the same for the most part against New Jersey's Richard Jefferson and Milwaukee's Desmond Mason.

It was startling when Prince emerged as standout defender in the playoffs last season because he played just 42 regular-season games after being the 23rd pick of the draft.

"The good thing was nobody got to see me play before the Orlando series," he said. "The next year, guys knew what I was capable of doing so with my first 82-game season, I had an up-and-down season."

Prince was put in the starting lineup and ranked fourth on the team with 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. He also was a big reason the Pistons broke records on defense this season, and in the playoffs.

In Game 2 of the conference finals against Indiana, Prince may have made the most spectacular defensive play of the postseason.

He was several steps behind Miller when he sprinted in from midcourt and made a perfectly timed block to lift the Pistons to a win.

"Tayshaun Prince has been great for us during the playoffs, and I don't think we would be here without him," Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said Friday.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press