AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal was about to throw
down another backboard-shaking dunk.
Ben Wallace wasn't having it.
The 6-foot-7 Wallace leaped and stuffed Shaq's slam -- forcing a
jump ball, putting the 7-1 O'Neal on his back and sparking
Detroit's defense that refused to let the Pistons' season end.
"It was a big play -- a momentum-changer," Wallace said of the
"You know it was a foul," O'Neal said. "Don't ask dumb
Whatever, the Pistons got back to their swarming ways when the
Miami Heat had the ball, and Tayshaun Prince scored a career
playoff-high 29 points to lift Detroit to a 91-78 win Wednesday
night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat did not score in the final 3½ minutes while Detroit
pulled away with the last nine points of the game. Miami also hurt
itself by going 6-of-20 from the free throw line.
"We just came out aggressive like we talked about and played
Pistons basketball," Chauncey Billups said. "There's pressure on
them now, now that they are home."
Miami hosts Game 6 on Friday night with a chance to advance to
the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. If the Heat
lose, they have to come back to suburban Detroit for Game 7 on
"Ain't no pressure on us at all, we have a golden opportunity
to win Game 6 on our home floor," Miami's Dwyane Wade said.
"They're the defending conference champions, there's no pressure
Wade scored a series-low 23 points -- eight below his previous
series average -- and O'Neal had 19 points for the Heat.
"They played hard and like a desperate team," Wade said.
Billups had 17 points and 10 assists, Richard Hamilton had 16
points and a career playoff-high 10 rebounds, and reserve Antonio
McDyess provided a boost with 10 of his 12 points coming after
"Everybody brought energy," Prince said. "When we move, we're
a better basketball team."
Miami, which trailed by as much as 11 in the first half, made it
51-all early in the third quarter.
Detroit's defense created a little cushion in what was a tightly
contested game for much of the night.
Prince had a steal and a dunk, then on the ensuing possession
Wallace brought the crowd to its feet with his eye-popping play --
no matter what O'Neal thought of it.
About a minute later, Wallace's three-point play -- yes, he made
the free throw -- gave the Pistons a 60-53 lead.
Detroit was ahead 73-65 after three quarters, and Prince had
already tied his career playoff-high with 24 points. The Pistons
stayed in control during the final quarter.
"They took their defense up to another level," Miami coach Pat
Riley said. "It was very intense."
Despite the loss, history says the Heat will reach the NBA
Finals for the first time. Teams leading conference or division
finals 3-1, like Miami was against Detroit, have advanced 40 of 43
times and 16 straight.
But the Pistons have been a trend-breaking team.
With four of its current starters playing key roles, Detroit
rallied to advance after trailing the Orlando Magic 3-1 in the
first round of the 2003 playoffs.
That became the first of four 3-2 deficits the Pistons have
overcome the past four postseasons -- including last year's Eastern
Conference finals against Miami, and the previous round this year
When Detroit or its opponents have had a chance to win a series
during its past four playoff runs, the Pistons are 19-2.
"They understand what's at hand," Detroit coach Flip Saunders
said. "You can't be afraid to lose, afraid to fail. If you're
looking at it where you're going to be afraid to fail, then you
play timid and this team has really not done that in these type of
The Pistons missed six of their first seven shots -- perhaps
showing some nerves with their season and reputation on the line --
but trailed by just three points.
Four Pistons contributed to an 8-0 run that put them ahead 10-5.
Detroit maintained the lead and was up 25-20 after the first
Another combination of four Pistons combined to score eight
unanswered points, putting Detroit ahead 35-24 -- its largest lead
up to that point. Miami responded with a 16-4 run, taking the lead
on Wade's dunk off Alonzo Mourning's full-court pass.
Detroit led 47-43 at halftime, with Prince and Hamilton
combining for 29 points and Wade being held to 10 -- his lowest
total at halftime in the series.
Prince's previous career playoff-high was 24 points, a
total he reached most recently in Game 2 against the Heat. .. The
Pistons lost three of their previous four Game 5s. ... Ben Wallace,
the Defensive Player of the Year, had three blocks -- two more than
in the previous four games. ... McDyess had a brace protecting his
left wrist, which he injured in Game 4, and after a dunk early in
the second quarter Wednesday, he grimaced with pain as he walked
off the court. ... "American Idol" finalist Paris Bennett sang
the national anthem. ... Faces in the crowd included Red Wings star
Nicklas Lidstrom, Hall of Fame singer Bob Seger, Kid Rock and
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, who just returned from
his second trip to Kuwait, where he coached and visited U.S.