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One-Man Motion Offense

Pistons' Hamilton never stops moving; Pacers are the latest team unable to keep up with him.

June 01, 2004|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — How is it that Richard Hamilton, the Detroit Pistons' man in perpetual motion, never seems to run out of steam?

At 6 feet 7 and 193 pounds, with a wiry physique that some might even describe as scrawny, the former Connecticut star is far from physically imposing, at least when matched against bigger, brawnier NBA players.

Yet he never slows down.

Constantly moving, with an unrelenting drive, Hamilton -- a 25-year-old in his fifth NBA season -- has powered Detroit within one victory of the NBA Finals.

"My dad always said, 'Alcohol- and drug-free, you'll run forever,' and I've been alcohol- and drug-free for 25 years," said Hamilton, who scored a playoff career-high 33 points Sunday in a pivotal 83-65 victory over the Indiana Pacers. "I eat the right foods and try to get my rest.

"You're going to take a beating, People look at me and say, 'OK, I'm going to try to out-tough him, hit him on every play.' I tell people, 'I've got inner strength.' It's not always what you see on the outside, but what's on the inside."

Hamilton's energetic, energizing Game 5 performance Sunday at Indianapolis gave the Pistons the inside track to their first Finals appearance since 1990. They lead the Eastern Conference finals, three games to two, and can wrap it with a victory tonight at the Palace.

History is on their side: In 119 previous best-of-seven NBA playoff series that were tied after four games, 83% were won by the Game 5 winner.

That puts the top-seeded Pacers at a critical juncture.

"We've got a choice," Coach Rick Carlisle said. "We can get back to the drawing board and figure out the things that have gotten us two wins in this series and concentrate on doing those better, or we'll go home."

In Game 5, the Pacers again struggled to score, reverting to the poor shooting that bogged them down in the first three games before they made 45.7% of their shots in an 83-68 victory Friday in Game 4. They made 33% Sunday, their starters hitting only 28%, and registered a franchise playoff-low point total.

The Pacers are banged up too, starters Jemaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley continuing to play despite injuries. O'Neal, his hyperextended left knee in a brace, scored only 11 points Sunday. Tinsley, his throbbing left hamstring limiting his creativity, missed 10 of 13 shots.

The only consistent scoring threat in a series dominated by defense has been Hamilton, who has averaged 21.5 points in the playoffs, 24.2 against the Pacers. His churning legs have left a series of defenders in futile pursuit.

"I learned from playing for coach Doug Collins in Washington, if you move without the ball, everybody can't guard that," he said. "I just keep moving.... I don't like to stay in one spot because I've got so much energy."

Said teammate Rasheed Wallace: "The last two series, he's pretty much been our offensive flow."

A flow the Pacers can't slow.

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