AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons have made two
major improvements over their recent runs to the NBA Finals:
offense, and playing Game 2s.
The two-time defending Eastern Conference champion Pistons had
lost three straight Game 2s and four of their last five, dating to
the 2004 NBA Finals. Before that stretch, Detroit lost to Milwaukee
two years ago in the second game of their first-round series en
route to the title.
"We knew all about that," Billups said. "The difference with
us now is that we're going to stay aggressive throughout each
series, and we're not going to get overconfident if we win Game
Detroit appeared motivated from the start, a bad sign for the
Bucks, and a 12-0 run midway through the second quarter gave the
Pistons a cushion they maintained for the rest of the night.
"We're not playing Milwaukee -- we're playing ourselves,"
Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "If guys have that approach, you
won't have letdowns."
Bucks star Michael Redd bounced back from an 11-point game with
"We made adjustments to try to get me open in better
positions," Redd said.
But Redd didn't get much help in the first half as Milwaukee's
other starters each scored six or fewer points before halftime.
T.J. Ford was Redd's only teammate to finish with more than 10
Game 3 is Saturday night in Milwaukee.
"We've done nothing," Billups said. "We've held serve with
Richard Hamilton, who left Game 1 with a sprained left ankle,
had 18 points and eight assists in 33 minutes. He had eight points
in the first 10 minutes before going to the sideline after
aggravating his injury, and in the third quarter, he had the lower
part of his left leg wrapped. After the game, Hamilton said the
injury was not serious.
"A sign of a good team is good balance," Bucks coach Terry
Stotts said. "Any of their guys can make plays to start runs or
Milwaukee reserve guard Maurice Williams limped off the court
late in the third quarter after turning an ankle, depleting a team
already without backup forward Toni Kukoc because of back spasms.
The Pistons displayed their balance from the start, with each
starter scoring to give them a 10-5 lead.
"That's how we beat people," Billups said. "We know there is
strength in numbers. We go into games not knowing what matchup
we're going to attack, we just go with the flow."
Detroit led 32-23 after the first quarter.
Milwaukee went on a 12-3 run -- led by Bell's eight points --
early in the second quarter to pull within two, only to have its
hopes dashed quickly by Detroit's 12 unanswered points, with eight
from reserve Maurice Evans, who didn't play in Game 1 until the
final two minutes.
"I'm just happy they gave me a chance, and that I made the most
of it," Evans said.
With four double-figure scorers, the Pistons led 61-48 at
Detroit led by as much as 19 points midway through the third
quarter before Simmons joined Redd as the only double-figure scorer
for the Bucks, helping them pull within 12. The Pistons started the
final quarter ahead 92-75.
The Pistons, who ran a slow-pace offense the past four years,
scored 28 fast-break points and showed the Bucks they can run to
score if needed.
"That's one of the biggest differences with this team,"
Billups said. "We can get out in transition to hurt you."
Kukoc missed his second straight game, but the Bucks are
hopeful he'll play Saturday night. ... Game 4 is Monday night in
Milwaukee. ... Detroit's five starters are all ranked among the top
six in the league in games played, including playoffs, over the
last three seasons. Bruce Bowen of San Antonio is fifth, one spot
ahead of Rasheed Wallace.