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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Brown feeling the Heat

Pistons head coach Larry Brown's career may close tonight in Miami, if the Detroit loses to the Miami Heat. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Chris Sheridan Associated Press

MIAMI – Dwyane Wade’s health could play a part in Larry Brown’s immediate future.

Wade’s availability for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals between Miami and Detroit on Monday night was still unknown, but whether the Heat’s leading scorer can play may be a major contributing factor whether Brown will be coaching for the final time.

The winner of Monday night’s game advances to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, while the loser will have the whole summer to wonder what went wrong, and why.

In Brown’s case, he’ll head to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., shortly after the Pistons’ season ends – as soon as Tuesday, or as late as June 24 – to address a medical problem that developed after complications from hip surgery. If surgeons are not able to correct it, Brown plans to retire from coaching.

So there’s a lot riding on Game 7 for both teams, but more so for the 64-year-old coaching nomad than anyone else.

“I told my wife before the game there was a thought (that it might be his last game), because you have so much time it seems before games,” Brown said Sunday before the Pistons traveled to Miami. “So hopefully we can keep playing.”

There was no official update Sunday on whether Wade will be available for the biggest game in franchise history. The team said the situation with Wade’s strained ribcage muscle was “status quo.”

Wade’s agent, Henry Thomas, said the decision to sit out Game 6 was made after Wade consulted with the Heat’s medical staff. Thomas said Wade was “feeling better” Sunday, but it was “too soon to tell” if he would play Monday night.

Detroit played its best game of the series in defeating the Heat 91-66 Saturday night to even the series at three games apiece.

Wade’s teammates couldn’t come close to winning without him in Game 6, finishing with the lowest postseason point total in franchise history.

“We didn’t lose the series tonight. We worked hard all year long, won 59 games, for one reason, and that’s to have home court in a Game 7 situation,” Heat guard Damon Jones said after Game 6. “That’s the positive that we have in front of us at this point in time.”

But unless the Heat get Wade back, or find an easier way to get the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, it’s unlikely there will be any positives by the end of Game 7.

Detroit was able to use ball pressure in the backcourt and different defensive looks in the frontcourt to stifle Miami’s ability to get the ball to O’Neal in the low post. O’Neal shot 11 for 18 and scored a team-high 24 points, but Detroit’s defense kept him from being a much bigger offensive focal point.

“That’s what we tried to do, give him different looks, as opposed to always being behind him,” Rasheed Wallace said. “Just try to find a little bit of (double-teaming) early, throw him off, keep him off-balance.”

Brown wants the Pistons to play with maximum effort tonight while staying loose.