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Matchups Can Get Brown Off Hook

June 10, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Detroit's Larry Brown is considered one of the NBA's best coaches but his decision not to foul before Kobe Bryant's game-tying three-point basket in Game 2 will be questioned throughout the summer if the Pistons fail to win this season's championship.

But Brown wasn't on the court throwing up poor shots with plenty of time left on the shot clock, as Piston point guard Chauncey Billups did down the stretch in regulation Tuesday.

Nor did Brown give up a soft foul on Shaquille O'Neal's three-point play that helped set up Bryant's dramatic shot. That was Ben Wallace.

And Brown certainly was not responsible for the Pistons' horrendous one-for-nine shooting in overtime as they made it easy for the Lakers, who evened the series, 1-1, heading into Game 3 tonight in Detroit.

Pistons' move -- With the Lakers' Karl Malone limited because of a knee injury, Detroit has to keep getting the ball inside to Rasheed Wallace. Even if Malone plays, Wallace holds a major edge over Laker power forwards because of his strong post moves.

If Wallace can establish his offensive game down low, other Lakers would be forced to drop back into the paint, which would open the floor for Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Billups. As long as their perimeter players remain aggressive with penetration drives, the Pistons should enjoy plenty of uncontested shots if they make the extra pass tonight.

Late in Game 2, the Pistons had several defensive breakdowns that resulted from fatigue because Brown did not use his bench enough. Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Prince looked tired when Bryant dribbled around them on drives to the basket in the fourth quarter and overtime. That should never happen with Detroit's superior depth. The Pistons need to play with energy, and the more fresh legs they can throw at the Lakers, the better.

Lakers' move -- Because of Malone's injury, center Shaquille O'Neal will be asked to do more than just score. Although he's averaging 31.5 points in the series, O'Neal has to become a rebounding beast while also being more forceful on defense, two areas where the Lakers will need help tonight with either Slava Medvedenko, Luke Walton or a gimpy Malone (if he plays) at power forward.

In Game 2, the Pistons made their second-half run by outrebounding the Lakers, 20-10, in the third and fourth quarters. But in overtime, the Lakers turned things around on the boards, 6-3, with Rasheed and Ben Wallace going the entire extra period without a rebound. O'Neal played an important role during that stretch by boxing out and pushing the Piston big men farther away from the basket.

Walton had a huge Game 2, making plays all over the court and compiling a team-high eight assists. But Walton will be a marked man in Game 3 and will have to play tough underneath the basket, where the Pistons will try to exploit his lack of size.

Something to look for -- It will be interesting to see whether Bryant has figured out Prince's defense. After having trouble getting off his shot for nearly seven quarters, Bryant took over in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 2.

It's all about rhythm for Bryant and he's unstoppable when he's in flow. If Bryant has his shot falling early, don't be surprised to see the Pistons double-team him and leave it up to other Lakers to beat them from the perimeter.

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