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Early Lead Has Been Slippery

June 13, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — After the Pistons took a 2-1 series lead over the Lakers, Detroit fans cheered at the unexpected prosperity. Then they slapped themselves in the forehead.

Being ahead in a series hasn't always been best for the Pistons, who held leads in three other playoff series this season, only to cough them up at home.

Leading, 1-0, against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, they lost Game 2 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Leading, 2-0, against the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals, they trailed, 3-2, after a Game 5 home loss.

Leading, 2-1, against the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals, they lost Game 4 at home.

The Pistons recovered to win all three series, good news for them, but their stumbles after early-series successes were all but thrown in their faces after they practiced Saturday.

"We can't think about the things that happened with us in the last series and the series with New Jersey," forward Rasheed Wallace said. "We just know [Game 4] is going to be a pivotal game in the series. It's either going to be 2-2 or 3-1, so I think [tonight] is going to be the toughest game. But we are up for the challenge."

As for fumbling away leads in the first three series, forward Ben Wallace said: "We looked at those games and realized we didn't come aggressive like we usually do. If we see somebody out there going through the motions, not giving it their all, we've got to be true teammates and go to them and be like, 'Hey, you've got to pick it up.' If he's not giving it everything he's got, we've got to pull his shirttail, get somebody else in there who will get it done."


Rasheed Wallace, a member of the Portland Trail Blazers when the Lakers beat them in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals, said he would no longer talk about the Lakers' come-from-behind victory in that game.

"Matter of fact, I ain't going to answer that for the simple fact I'm pretty ticked off with everybody asking me that question all the time," he said. "Portland is over and done with. Right now, I'm just focusing on Detroit and [Game 4]."


Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers has done markedly better in the playoffs when he has more than one day of rest between games, a concept not lost on the Pistons. O'Neal will have had two days of rest by tonight.

"We're not going to be surprised by the type of energy he's going to come out on the floor with," Ben Wallace said.

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