<
>

Pistons sprint out to big lead, coast to Game 4 win

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Over a span of almost eight minutes, the
Indiana Pacers managed just one point. In a sequence of 19 shots,
they missed 18.

The Pacers' poor shooting put them in a big early hole, and a
brief third-quarter comeback was all they could manage the rest of
the way as Chauncey Billups scored 29 points to lead the Detroit
Pistons past the Pacers 89-76 Sunday, tying their best-of-seven
Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-2.

Game 5 is at Detroit on Tuesday night.

"This has turned into a great series. But the pressure is
always going to be on us; we're the [defending] champs," Billups
said.

Just as they did Friday night when they blew an 18-point lead,
the Pacers went cold from the field -- and this time it cost them
the game.

Detroit had a 19-1 first-quarter run and led by 17 in the first
half, then took a 20-point lead late in the third period after
Indiana had pulled within six. In the final quarter, the Pistons
were never threatened.

"It was a tough little stretch when they got back in the game.
We knew they would make a run," Billups said. "But I wanted to
combat that by being extra aggressive. I kind of took it on myself,
and they followed me."

Indiana's collapse came early, with a free throw by Jamaal
Tinsley the Pacers' only point in a stretch of almost eight
minutes. After that, Billups scored nine points as Detroit quickly
built its lead to 17.

Rasheed Wallace had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Richard
Hamilton added 13 points and seven assists for the Pistons.

"It was answering the bell. We couldn't afford to go down 3-1
to this team," said Wallace, who guaranteed a victory after the
Game 3 loss on Friday.

"I couldn't get a shot to save my life the last game," he
said. "Coming into tonight, I don't think there was no pressure on
us. We just had to go out and play and execute."

Stephen Jackson led Indiana with 23 points and Tinsley had 17.
Jermaine O'Neal, continuing a playoff shooting slump, shot 4-of-15
from the field and finished with 10 points.

"I was terrible. I didn't do anything right," said O'Neal, who
has shot just 23 percent in the past two games.

"It is a cycle in basketball. It always comes back to you,"
O'Neal said. "I'm a true believer you should never get too high or
too low. ... At some point, I feel it's going to come back to me."

Reggie Miller, who clinched the Game 3 victory with a basket and
four free throws in the closing seconds, had seven points on
2-for-6 shooting and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.

"It's pretty obvious after you play a team a number of times,
you find out what works," Detroit coach Larry Brown said. "As the
series has gone on, we've tried to be more committed to a
pick-and-roll defense, changing up a bit. The big factor was they
didn't get out on the break much.

"And when our defense is set, that's when you're going to get
turnovers and be a little more difficult to score against," Brown
said.

Indiana's only lead came in the opening minutes, when two
baskets by Dale Davis and a 3-pointer by Jackson helped the Pacers
to a 9-2 lead.

It didn't last long.

The Pacers missed their next 13 shots, and with the nine points
by Billups and baskets by Antonio McDyess and Richard Hamilton,
Detroit made it 21-10 before a basket by O'Neal -- his first after
14 straight misses since the first quarter of Game 3 on Friday.

"They really raised the level of their game. Unfortunately,
after a great start, we struggled," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle
said. "Some of it, the decision-making wasn't great. We had some
good shots but couldn't hit a bull in the rear end with a bass
fiddle."

Detroit led 21-13 after the first quarter, then the Pacers
missed their first five shots of the second period -- making them
1-for-19 over a 13-minute stretch spanning the first two quarters.

Their shooting -- 16 percent for the game at that point --
improved in the second period with baskets by Tinsley and reserves
James Jones and Fred Jones. A flying dunk by Fred Jones cut
Detroit's lead to 10 points. Anthony Johnson then hit one of two
free throws to make it 43-34, but Tayshaun Prince hit two free
throws and a short jump hook to push the lead to 47-34 at halftime.

The Pacers pulled to 56-50 with five minutes left in the third
quarter, but once again they went cold, and a 3-pointer by Prince
capped a 16-2 run for the Pistons' biggest lead -- 72-52. Indiana
came no closer than 12 points the rest of the way and finished the
game shooting 37 percent to Detroit's 41 percent.

Game notes
The winner of this series will play Miami in the Eastern
Conference finals; the Pacers were 3-1 against the Heat in the
regular season, and the Pistons were 2-1. ... Indiana's Jeff
Foster, who had a career-high 20 rebounds in Game 2 and 12 in Game
3, had only one rebound in 12 minutes. ... The Pacers shot only
3-of-19 on 3-point attempts. ... Billups' 29 points moved him past
John Salley into sixth place (800) in Pistons' career playoff
scoring. Hamilton is fifth with 1,055 points.