MIAMI (AP) -- The mismatches favored the Detroit Pistons, and the
defending champions kept finding and exploiting them.
Whether it was Tayshaun Prince outsizing Dwyane Wade, Rasheed
Wallace taking his man outside or Chauncey Billups getting the
better of Damon Jones, the Detroit Pistons played calmly and
intelligently for 48 minutes and defeated the Miami Heat 90-81
Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Miami had Shaquille O'Neal back in its lineup after waiting
almost until tip-off to find out whether he could play with a
bruised right thigh. He opened the game by making his first four
shots, but Detroit's defense kept the Heat from running their
offense through O'Neal for the rest of the game, and the big man
wasn't all that much of a factor while scoring 20 points on
9-for-14 shooting with five rebounds.
Wade also played relatively poorly for the Heat, scoring just 16
points on 7-for-25 shooting while being frustrated for much of the
night by Prince's defense.
"They did a good job finding some matchups, I'm not taking that
away from them, but what I think they did more was had great
patience and execution and got good shots. We did not," Heat coach
Stan Van Gundy said.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami, and the Heat will have to
find a way to boost their confidence and cloak their shortcomings
to avoid heading to Detroit down 2-0.
"I don't know if we've gotten the same respect that other
champions have, but we use that as motivation," Billups said. "I
think the teams we play against respect us more than the outside
But perhaps respect is coming -- especially if the Pistons can
control Game 2 in the same manner they did Game 1.
"We have to keep attacking, moving the ball and getting the
shots that we want," Prince said. "We have to continue to play
defense and share the ball."
The loss was the first for the Heat in nine postseason games,
and their first of any kind since April 15. Coming off nine days of
rest since they finished off the Washington Wizards in the second
round, the Heat were far from sharp and not all that smart with
their shot selection.
O'Neal's foul shot with 4:36 remaining was Miami's final point.
"We didn't shut them down. We just wanted it a little bit
more," Rasheed Wallace said.
Ben Wallace was the catalyst as the Pistons started to break the
game open early in the third quarter.
After hitting a 12-footer and then drawing O'Neal's first foul,
he was left wide open for an 18-foot jumper that he also knocked
down. Detroit's center then stole the ball from O'Neal in the low
post, leading to a possession on which Prince was isolated against
Wade on the left wing and worked his way inside for a short bank
shot. Wade turned to his bench after the shot and gave a dejected,
Ben Wallace then blocked a jumper by Udonis Haslem as the
24-second shot clock was about to expire, and Rasheed Wallace hit a
15-footer to make it 52-43. The jitters really started to get to
the Heat after that, their possessions looking more panicked and
never getting better.
"I made bad decisions tonight, and I want to correct them,"
said Wade, who was the Miami player most responsible for having a
quick trigger on his shot when a little bit of patience would have
served him much better.
Miami finally caught the Pistons with a 9-0 run that tied it at
80 with 5:10 left, but Detroit calmly went back to what had been
working. In this case, the Pistons decided to test Jones' ability
to defend Billups -- and quickly discovered he couldn't.
Billups backed down Jones and scored easily to make it 82-80,
then used a quick first step to get past Jones for a mid-range
jumper that upped the lead to three.
"We've all been in big games together, we've been in the
foxhole," Billups said. "So when it's 80-80, we've been there
before and we're going to get the shot we want. We're a
championship team, and that was championship poise right there."
Miami stayed in it as Detroit missed shots on three consecutive
possessions, but that stretch ended when Rasheed Wallace blocked a
jumper by Haslem and saved the ball from going out of bounds,
leading to a jumper off a screen by Hamilton that made it 86-81
with 1:19 left.
Billups' jumper with 17 seconds left ended all doubt.
"They're a better defensive team that we've played against in
the playoffs. We can't expect to get the easy shots we got last
round or in the first round," Heat center Alonzo Mourning said.
Wade had trouble freeing himself from Prince early in the game,
and when he found himself being guarded by Hamilton in the second
quarter he seemed to be trying to do too much. Wade missed three
consecutive shots -- one a layup -- late in the second quarter to
drop to 2-for-12 from the field, and Billups gave Detroit its
biggest lead of the game to that point on a 3-pointer from the
corner that made it 42-37.
Miami came back and scored the next six points before Ben
Wallace put back his own miss to give the Pistons a 44-43 halftime
Haslem, who dislocated his left middle finger at practice
Sunday, aggravated the injury late in the third quarter. He went to
the bench, and the crowd cheered as Van Gundy made the rare move of
sending Mourning in to play alongside O'Neal. ... Billups and
Jones, both strong foul shooters, each missed a free throw
following defensive 3-second technical fouls in the first half.