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NBA FINALS: DETROIT 88, LAKERS 68 | PISTON NOTES

Even Milicic Gets Into the Act

June 11, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Game 3 got so out of hand that the punch lines were flying in the media room shortly after it ended.

One in particular: Darko actually played.

Darko Milicic, selected No. 2 overall by the Pistons in the NBA draft last summer, has drawn plenty of notoriety because he was drafted before Carmelo Anthony, who went third to Denver and helped take the Nuggets to the playoffs.

Milicic, meanwhile, averaged 1.4 points for the Pistons during the regular season and had little influence in their drive to the NBA Finals, playing only nine playoff minutes before Thursday.

But Milicic, a seven-footer from Serbia who has scored one point in the playoffs, played two minutes in the fourth quarter, his most time since playing three minutes in a first-round game against Milwaukee.

Milicic missed his only shot, a 13-foot jumper, in the Pistons' 88-68 victory.

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The Pistons pride themselves in "hustle categories," so much so that a common prop on the video board is a train whistle that sounds after a hard-work play.

The whistle got a workout Thursday as the Pistons pounded the Lakers in rebounds and free-throw attempts. Detroit outrebounded the Lakers, 51-39, and had 30 free-throw attempts to the Lakers' 13.

"We played so good defensively," Piston Coach Larry Brown said. "We limited them to one shot for the most part. We kept people off the free-throw line."

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Game 3 was little more than an hour from tipoff, but there was still old news to discuss, one final time.

Two days after the fact, Brown was still defending his decision to allow Kobe Bryant to fire away in the closing seconds of Game 2. He said he had never been second-guessed as much about anything in his 21-season NBA career.

"By second-guessing me, [you] are taking away from what that kid did," Brown said at a pregame news conference. "I don't doubt what we did was right. God forbid we did foul and he shoots the ball as he's getting fouled.

"But I should be second-guessed on everything we do. That's what makes talk radio, and that's what gives you [media] guys an opportunity. You have the right, and that's what makes it fun."

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Forward Rasheed Wallace did not play in the second quarter for a second consecutive game because of early foul trouble. He finished with three points in 26 minutes in Game 3.

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