AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The bus carrying the losing team
pulled away from the loading dock exactly 48 minutes after the
final buzzer sounded, the mood of the Miami Heat as foul and their answers as pithy as their exit was hasty.
Obviously, they wanted to put this one behind them.
On a night when the Heat could have been celebrating the
franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals, they were instead taken
apart by the defending champion Detroit Pistons.
Richard Hamilton did a little of everything on offense, and the
Pistons swarmed and swatted their way to a dominant defensive
performance Saturday night to defeat Miami 91-66 and even the
best-of-seven series at three games apiece.
Game 7 will be in Miami on Monday night to determine who will
represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. And the
deciding factor may end up being a player who was no factor at all
in Game 6 -- Dwyane Wade.
"I'm not doing interviews," Wade said, surrounded by friends
and family, as he stood in a hallway near the loading dock.
And with that, there was to be no detailed explanation of why a
strained rib muscle was too painful for Miami's emerging superstar
The decision to sit Wade was made just before gametime, and
without their leading scorer the Heat had no one aside from O'Neal
to give them an offensive boost -- and there were several long
stretches when that was exactly what Miami needed.
The 66 points represented the lowest postseason point total in
Heat franchise history, and they never were in contention over the
final 24 minutes.
"Look, the two teams played with who they had tonight," Heat
coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They dominated us tonight. Period."
The Pistons used runs of 13-0 and 10-0 in the second quarter to
take a 44-32 halftime lead, and the lead grew to 23 before the
third quarter was over. Miami didn't reach 50 points until 8:07
remained in the fourth quarter, and by then the Pistons were
already ahead by 26.
Hamilton scored 24 points on 10-for-17 shooting with six assists
and six rebounds, Tayshaun Prince scored 16 and Chauncey Billups 14
for the Pistons, whose most telling statistics were generated on
the defensive end.
Detroit had an 19-7 advantage in fast-break points and an 18-7
edge in second-chance points, and the biggest factor in the
Pistons' favor -- aside from Wade's absence -- was their 25-2
advantage in points off turnovers.
O'Neal led Miami with 24 points, but he was one of the main
culprits when it came to failing to take care of the ball,
committing six of the Heat's 19 turnovers.
"They did what they were supposed to do on their home court,"
O'Neal said. "Now, we have to do what we're supposed to do. Game 7
is a must game. No room for mistakes, no room for 'my faults,' and
everyone has to come in and do their part."
The Heat now must hope that Wade's injury starts to heal a lot
quicker over the next 48 hours, or the chances increase that it
will be the Pistons heading to San Antonio for Game 1 of the Finals
on Thursday night.
Wade was replaced in the starting lineup by Rasual Butler, who
scored 13 points. But Keyon Dooling with 10 points was the only
other Miami player to reach double figures. Eddie Jones shot
1-for-9 for three points, Udonis Haslem scored eight and Damon
"Obviously not having [Wade] impacted this game so much.
Dwyane, just like Shaq, makes everybody better. Dwyane has that
effect on both ends, so obviously it helped," Brown said.
The absence of Wade first started to hurt the Heat in the early
part of the second quarter as the Pistons' pressure against backup
point guard Keyon Dooling disrupted the flow of Miami's offense.
The Heat had turnovers on four of five possessions, the last of
which, a 24-second violation, was followed by an 18-footer by
Lindsey Hunter to end the 13-0 run and put Detroit ahead 32-20. At
that point, the Heat had 11 turnovers and just nine field goals.
Miami came right back with a 9-0 run, and a high-arcing
3-pointer by Butler made it 34-32 before the Pistons closed the
half with a 10-0 run for a 12-point halftime lead. A 3-pointer by
Billups got the lead up to 20, 56-36, with 7:04 left in the third
quarter, and a corner jumper by Hamilton extended the run to 24-4
and put the Pistons ahead 58-36.
A 3-pointer by Billups with 7:44 remaining got the lead up to
80-51, and O'Neal went to the bench for good with 4½ minutes left.
Now, it comes down to a Game 7 -- a situation coaches often like
to call "the ultimate game."
"I'm thrilled we're in that position, based on how this series
has gone," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "I'm proud of my team, and this is great
for basketball. You've got two terrific teams that try to play the
right way, and I have a lot of admiration for Miami, how they've
played in this series. I haven't seen any cheap stuff, just two
teams trying to do the right thing."
NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik attended the game and
gave a pessimistic reading on where labor negotiations stand,
saying he believes a lockout is more likely than not to happen
after the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.
Labor talks broke down last week after the union outlined its
latest proposal. ... A 42-year-old man was arrested during the
first half after a bomb threat was called in. Police said new
security measures implemented after similar incidents earlier in
the season were instrumental in identifying the suspect, who was
arrested after being interviewed by the FBI and the Auburn Hills