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Rip, Big Ben lead drubbing of Indiana

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Detroit and Indiana were able to just
play basketball for the first time this season at The Palace.

"It was good to see the focus on basketball," said Ben
Wallace, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year who also came through
on offense Monday night in a 96-81 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern
Conference semifinals. "We sort of left the past in the past and
that's a good thing for both teams, and the league."

Naturally, Wallace played a big role defensively with 15
rebounds and four steals. But he scored 14 of his 21 points in the
first half to help Detroit build a big lead it maintained easily.

The Pacers' two previous road games against the Pistons were
marred by the infamous melee -- which started on the court, spilled
into the stands and went back onto the court -- and a phone threat
of a bomb in Indiana's locker room, delaying the second game at The
Palace by almost 90 minutes.

Detroit's Richard Hamilton had 28 points, while Chauncey Billups
and Rasheed Wallace each scored 11.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night.

Just like both teams predicted, they were able to play without
unusual distractions.

Indiana's Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal, suspended for 30
and 15 games, respectively, for their roles in the brawl, were
booed louder than the rest of their teammates during pregame
introductions and sometimes when they had the ball.

That seemed to be the only carry-over from the regular-season
matchups in suburban Detroit.

After winning at Boston in Game 7, the Pacers were left with
only one day of rest before facing Detroit, which was off six days
after eliminating Philadelphia in Game 5.

"We do not have any excuses," Jackson said. "They wanted to
come out and make a statement and they made it."

Indiana scored the first basket, then fell behind and couldn't
do much about it.

O'Neal had a great start, then cooled down, finishing with 22
points. Jackson didn't score until early in the second quarter and
finished with 15 points. Both players signed autographs for fans
before the game.

The Pacers' Ron Artest, suspended for the rest of the season for
his part in the brawl, is expected to practice with his teammates
when they return to Indianapolis. Reggie Miller, who plans to
retire after the season, scored just six points -- nearly 10 below
his playoff average -- and struggled to stay with Hamilton. Jamaal
Tinsley added 13 points for the Pacers.

When the Pistons fired Rick Carlisle two years ago and hired
Larry Brown, Ben Wallace was encouraged to be a threat on offense
instead of just a rebounder and defender like he was under
Carlisle. Wallace was essentially told to give up the ball when he
had it on offense during his two seasons with Carlisle.

"I didn't think it was fair to my teammates to come down and
not look to shoot the ball," Wallace said. "It allowed teams to
pretty much play five against four. Coach Brown encouraged me to
get involved and to make plays for myself and my teammates."

Wallace averaged 9.5 points last year, then a career high, and
improved to 9.7 during this regular season. In the first round
against Philadelphia, he scored a career-high 29 points and
averaged 12.8 points during the series.

"I thought Ben Wallace really dominated a lot of the activity
in this game, and he set an unbelievable tone," Carlisle said.

Wallace would've had a better night offensively had the
notoriously poor free throw shooter not missed 10 of 15 at the
line.

He was suspended for six games for his role in the brawl and one
of his brothers was among the spectators charged. In total, five
Pacers and eight fans were charged. The players are scheduled to be
tried for misdemeanor assault and battery this summer.

Unlike the second meeting at The Palace, the game started on
time -- barely.

Housekeepers, ballboys and the officials made sure there wasn't
an embarrassing delay by picking up red, white and blue confetti
that fluttered onto the court.

Detroit started aggressively, driving for shots in the lane
instead of settling for jumpers. O'Neal prevented the Pacers from
falling behind earlier by scoring 12 of their first 16 points.
Detroit led 23-20 after the first quarter.

The Pistons built a cushion by outscoring Indiana 11-4 to open
the second quarter and led by as much as 16 before taking a 52-38
lead at halftime. The Pistons started the fourth quarter with a
72-57 lead.

"Right now, we are playing a team that is bringing a different
level of force than we have seen in the last couple weeks, and we
will have to step it up in a lot of areas," Carlisle said.

Game notes
Detroit eliminated the Pacers 4-2 in the conference finals
last year. ... Brown led the Pacers for four seasons, from 1993-94
through 1996-97. ... The Pacers have used 31 starting lineups -- and
17 starters -- due to suspensions and injuries. ... With his 16th
point, Hamilton became the fifth Piston to score 1,000 career
postseason points. ... Pistons owner Bill Davidson, recovering from
a medical procedure, has not attended a playoff game. ... Indiana
lost Game 1 at Boston, then went on the win the series with three
straight victories on the road, including Game 7.