AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Three games into the NBA Finals, the
Detroit Pistons finally figured things out: With some energy and
aggression, they can actually play with the San Antonio Spurs.
Not only play with them, but soundly defeat them.
The defending champions summoned the spirit and spunk that had
been missing in the first two games of the NBA Finals, changing the
complexion of the series in a way many thought impossible.
Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton led the way as the Pistons
dominated the final 14 minutes and defeated the Spurs 96-79 in Game
3 Tuesday night.
"I think we figured out how hard we have to play," coach Larry
Brown said. "I think our guys realize it's going to take our very
best to make this a competitive series."
Television ratings have been down and interest has been low, but
the best-of-seven series suddenly looks much more compelling. No
longer is there a chance for a sweep, and never again will anyone
question whether the Pistons can even play with the likes of Manu
Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Co.
Ginobili got hurt in the game's first 30 seconds was a
non-factor for the first time in the series, and Duncan could not
match the energy or enthusiasm generated by Wallace, the NBA's
defensive player of the year. Wallace's dunk with 4:27 left gave
Detroit its largest lead up to that point, 88-73, and the Pistons
held on easily from there.
Now, the Pistons will look to even the series at 2-2 in Game 4
on Thursday night and ensure a trip back to Texas.
Known for their resiliency over the past two postseasons, the
Pistons finally showed the one distinct team characteristic that
had been eluding them since Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference
finals against Miami.
"We knew this was the game that we needed," Rasheed Wallace
said. "And, definitely being the home team came up in that mix and
supplied a lot of energy for us."
Hamilton scored 24 points, including 10 in the third quarter
when Detroit took the lead for good, and Chauncey Billups added 20.
But although the Pistons got most of their points from their
backcourt tandem once again, they were anything but a two-man team.
Ben Wallace had 15 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and three
steals, and Tayshaun Prince and Antonio McDyess each added 12
Detroit became the first team to score 90 points against the
Spurs in 14 NBA Finals games, putting together the type of poised,
pumped-up performance they hadn't displayed since Game 7 of the
Eastern Conference finals at Miami.
Detroit had lost by 15 and 21 points in the first two games of
the series, but they ditched the downtrodden demeanor that
contributed to their undoing in Games 1 and 2.
"You know, tonight we really came out here and took care of
business at home," Hamilton said. "We defended, we helped each
other out and we got a win."
Everything about the Pistons was different, from their defensive
intensity to their dedication in terms of getting more people
involved on offense. Hamilton was more assertive in shaking off the
pesky defense of Bruce Bowen, Prince was much more effective
limiting Ginobili, and Ben Wallace seemed especially motivated to
put two very sub-par performances behind him.
"He was great. He played with energy and got their crowd into
it," Duncan said. "Their aggressiveness was up, and that in
itself fueled what they were doing."
Ben Wallace blocked his five shots in the first quarter alone,
and he had half of Detroit's offensive rebounds in the first half
when Detroit had a 24-12 edge in points in the paint and an 11-0
advantage in fast-break points.
He set the tone right from the start, stealing the opening
inbounds pass after he was called for a jump ball violation, then
racing downcourt for a dunk and a three-point play.
Wallace ended an eight-game streak of scoring in single digits
and a five-game streak with fewer than 10 rebounds.
Ginobili went down just a few seconds later, bruising his left
thigh in a collision with Prince just 21 seconds into the game.
Though he wasn't sidelined for long, the star of Games 1 and 2 had
just four points at halftime with four turnovers. He finished with
seven points and six turnovers.
"No excuses, no reasons, I just didn't play well," Ginobili
said. "I didn't have a great game, and as a team we didn't have
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 21 points. San Antonio was
outrebounded 44-37 and committed 18 turnovers leading to 23 Pistons
There were 20 lead changes and 10 ties, but the Pistons took
over to such a degree late in the third quarter and early in the
fourth that Brown was able to empty his bench near the end.
Detroit opened the second half with a 13-5 run ending in an
alley-oop reverse slam by Ben Wallace off a pass from Hamilton, a
play that brought the fans out of their seats and left rapper
Eminem waving a red, white and blue towel from his seat behind the
But the Spurs came right back with a 9-0 run to regain the lead
56-54 before the Pistons closed the period with a 16-9 run to take
a five-point lead into the final quarter.
"There are no games to waste," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said
beforehand. "We've created an opportunity for ourselves, and it
would be great to take advantage of it."
They didn't, and now it's a whole different series.
Ben Wallace's five blocks in the first quarter tied Bob
Lanier's club record for blocks in a quarter. ... Doctors used CPR
to revive a man who had an apparent heart attack during the first
half in the seats behind the north basket. The fan received a loud
ovation as he was wheeled out on a stretcher holding his thumb up.
... Keyboardist and vocalist Stevie Wonder played the national
anthem on a harmonica.