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Hamilton provides the spark

Detroit's Rasheed Wallace finishes off a first-quarter dunk on Tuesday.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Detroit's Rasheed Wallace finishes off a first-quarter dunk on Tuesday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Larry Brown will return to Detroit to coach at least one more game. His defending champion Pistons made sure of it.

Detroit ensured that the Eastern Conference finals will last at least six games, getting a big performance from Richard Hamilton on both ends of the court to defeat the Miami Heat 106-96 Tuesday night in Game 4 of their best-of-7 series.

Bouncing back from a 2-1 deficit just as they did in the second round against Indiana, the Pistons took the lead for good after Shaquille O’Neal got into foul trouble midway through the first quarter and knotted the series 2-2 heading into Game 5 on Thursday night in Miami.

Game 6 will be Saturday on Detroit’s court in what could be Brown’s last home game as coach of the Pistons.

The 64-year-old Brown has met with the Cleveland Cavaliers about becoming their president of basketball operations, though he continued to insist Tuesday that he would like to continue coaching if his health allows it.

The performance was the Pistons’ most dominant of the series after they lost Games 2 and 3.

Detroit did not have a single turnover in the first half, never let Dwyane Wade get into a scoring groove – thanks in large part to Hamilton’s defense – and was never seriously challenged in the fourth quarter.

“We’re in much better shape than we were after the other night. We all felt this would be a great series, and hopefully that’s the case,” Brown said. “We have to find a way to win one game on the road and take care of our own court.”

Hamilton scored 28 points, Rasheed Wallace added 20, Chauncey Billups had 17 and the Pistons finished with six turnovers. The lopsided result even allowed little-used forward Darko Milicic to see his first playing time of the series – the final 93 seconds.

“For the night, their four main guys that they look to offensively, we didn’t do a good job on any of them,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Just a great, great game by them. A very complete effort on their part.”

O’Neal, limited by foul trouble to 8 minutes in the first half, had 12 points and five rebounds. Wade had 28 points on 10-for-22 shooting as Brown made a switch and used Hamilton instead of Tayshaun Prince as the primary defender on the Heat’s second-year guard.

Detroit also handed Miami its first road loss of the postseason. The Heat had been 5-0 against New Jersey, Washington and the Pistons.

“Tonight we took care of the ball the whole game, and that was the key,” Brown said.

O’Neal picked up his second foul just 6:14 into the first quarter with the score 11-11, and the Heat were behind 32-25 when he returned 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter.

O’Neal’s third foul came just over 2 minutes later when he was called for bumping Hamilton on a drive. O’Neal protested that he had his arms straight up, then frowned at the referee who made the call, Jack Nies, as he exited for the rest of the half.

Miami had a 13-3 run to pull to 46-42, but things went bad for the Heat after O’Neal’s backup, Alonzo Mourning, drew his third foul with 3:30 left. Hamilton scored six points and Billups had four as Detroit closed the half with a 14-4 run for a 60-46 lead.

Wade had just 10 points at the half as Hamilton did a superb job keeping him out of his rhythm.

“We just wanted to change up,” Brown said. “The kid’s a great, great player. You can’t always give them the same look.”

O’Neal’s fourth foul came with 3:05 left in the third quarter after Miami had managed to pull to 70-65, and the Heat entered the fourth quarter trailing 79-69.

A 3-pointer by Damon Jones pulled the Heat to 84-75 with 7:51 left, but Prince hit a short jump-hook to start a 9-1 run – ending with a fast-break dunk by Antonio McDyess – that made it 93-76.

Detroit avoided falling behind 3-1, a deficit only seven of 159 teams have recovered from in postseason history.

Pistons 106, Heat 96

Miami (96)–E.Jones 3-10 5-5 11, Haslem 4-9 6-6 14, O’Neal 4-9 4-10 12, Wade 10-22 8-10 28, D.Jones 2-4 0-0 6, Dooling 3-7 4-4 11, Mourning 2-2 0-2 4, Doleac 2-3 0-0 4, Butler 1-4 0-0 2, Laettner 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 32-72 29-39 96.

Detroit (106)–Prince 6-12 3-5 15, R.Wallace 9-13 1-1 20, B.Wallace 2-11 0-0 4, R.Hamilton 10-18 8-12 28, Billups 5-11 4-5 17, Arroyo 0-3 5-6 5, McDyess 3-5 0-0 6, Hunter 0-2 6-8 6, Campbell 2-2 1-2 5, Ham 0-0 0-0 0, Milicic 0-0 0-0 0, Dupree 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-77 28-39 106.


3-Point Goals—Miami 3-14 (D.Jones 2-3, Dooling 1-4, E.Jones 0-2, Wade 0-2, Butler 0-3), Detroit 4-8 (Billups 3-4, R.Wallace 1-1, R.Hamilton 0-1, Prince 0-1, Hunter 0-1). Fouled Out—R.Wallace. Rebounds—Miami 52 (E.Jones 10), Detroit 49 (B.Wallace 15). Assists—Miami 17 (Wade 6), Detroit 27 (R.Hamilton 8). Total Fouls—Miami 30, Detroit 28. Technicals—Haslem, Billups. A—22,076. (22,076).

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