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THE NBA FINALS

Pistons Just Keep Pounding

Detroit makes the big plays down the stretch for a 95-86 victory, the team's first win in San Antonio since 1997, forcing a Game 7.

June 22, 2005|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — You can burn their house, steal their car, tear their beating heart from their chest and hand it to them ...

But you can't discourage the Detroit Pistons.

Tuesday night, 48 hours after Robert Horry snatched Game 5 from them, in a city where they hadn't won since 1997, they snatched the Larry O'Brien Trophy out of the San Antonio Spurs' arms, outdueling them down the stretch and winning, 95-86, to tie the NBA Finals, 3-3.

Game 7, the first in the Finals since 1994, is Thursday night.

"It means everything," said Chauncey Billups, after making five three-point baskets and scoring 21 points. "You go back to the hotel instead of the airplane."

Oh, and you get to play for your second title in a row too!

Further complicating the situation, a loss might have made this the Pistons' last game under Coach Larry Brown. Of course, they got used to that distraction weeks ago.

"That's what our team's about," Brown said. "I kept fielding that question about how we were going to get our guys ready to play again....

"We put ourselves in that position so we've got no other alternative but to show up and compete. You know, I know people look out there and reflect on the way some people act but this is a competitive bunch of guys....

"We talked about it in the dressing room. Everybody made a big deal of the shot Horry made and who made the mistake. I ask my guys every day just to play hard and I can live with any mistakes with effort."

The player who made the mistake is also the demonstrative one who leads some people to reflect on his behavior. That's Rasheed Wallace, who left Horry alone to make the winning shot in Game 5, spent two days feeling awful, came out Tuesday night and whom did he see but referee Dan Crawford.

After Game 2, Brown uttered a rare complaint aimed specifically at Crawford, one of the league's highest rated officials, but none of the Pistons gets upset about referees the way Wallace does. Nevertheless, Wallace kept enough of his composure to squeeze in 24 minutes Tuesday night, although he was in foul trouble, scoring 16 points, including a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter.

Of course, everybody else had their hands full keeping Wallace out of trouble. Billups got a technical foul, protesting a call against Rasheed, and moments later Brown got another.

These guys don't fool around.

It was a grim band of Pistons who boarded their plane to fly here Monday. Nevertheless, their starters have been on a total of 15 teams (that's an average of three per player), which comes in handy when everyone is telling them they don't have a chance.

Down, 3-2, to the Spurs, with the last two games in San Antonio where they hadn't won since 1997, in SBC Center where they had never won?

The Pistons eat this stuff up.

Billups is on his fifth team, Ben Wallace his third, Rasheed Wallace his fourth and Richard Hamilton his second. Tayshaun Prince is the only starter they drafted.

If their hearts were breaking, they didn't look like it. The Pistons played the Spurs on even terms for the first half. It stayed tight through the third quarter, with the teams never more than four points apart.

The Pistons led, 71-67, after three quarters and 84-82 with 4:13 left. After that it was a gut-check and one thing the Pistons have is guts.

Billups missed a three-pointer, but Prince, a terrific offensive rebounder for someone with his thin body, got the ball back. Then Rasheed Wallace missed a jumper and Prince got that one back too. The ball swung to Rasheed at the top of the circle, who knocked down a three-pointer, making it 87-82.

With 2:00 left and the Spurs within 87-86, Prince drove the lane and hit a seven-foot running half-hook. For a second-year man, he's also pretty brave.

On the Spurs' next possession, Manu Ginobili drove to the basket, but Ben Wallace blocked his shot, knocking the ball off Ginobili, who had fallen out of bounds.

At the other end, Billups drove the lane and missed but Rasheed followed him in and scored on the rebound, making it 91-86 with 1:25 left.

The fans in the SBC Center were so stunned, the Coyote could barely get them to cheer during the ensuing timeout. Of course, there wasn't a lot to cheer about, with the home team failing to score in the last 2:21.

Of course, the Pistons' next game might be their last under Brown too, and it's here, and they'll be underdogs. As if they care.

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