What's On Tap

Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

What to Watch

Everything is as it should be in the Indiana Pacer's corner of Hoosierville.

Larry Bird, a favorite son, has returned as president of basketball operations to overhaul the team and shepherd the franchise back to the Eastern Conference finals, where the Pacers trail the Detroit Pistons, two games to one.

Pacer fans eagerly tick off Bird's many accomplishments in only his first year back. He hired a winning coach, helped to pacify and focus the talented but combustible Ron Artest, and he has built the backbone of the franchise by bringing in seasoned scouts and front office people and by acquiring the team's young stars.

That's only partially true. Bird hired former Detroit coach Rick Carlisle and helped Artest cut down on his tirades and technical fouls. But the kudos for shoring up the Pacers organization belong to the lesser known Donnie Walsh, the team's president and chief executive officer.

It was Walsh, 63, who drafted Reggie Miller in the 1987 draft. It was Walsh who in 1997 hired Bird as head coach and together they reached the 2000 NBA finals. It was Walsh who recognized the vast potential of Jermaine O'Neal and traded Dale Davis and Joe Kleine to the Portland Trail Blazers to get him.

It was Walsh, who while mourning the death of his 12-year-old granddaughter last June, decided -- without any prodding by the team's owners -- to turn control of the team over to Bird over the next four years and begin to faze himself out of the franchise he's operated for 17 years.

"When I went to the funeral I did think, 'I've spent every hour of my life the last 17 years in this job,' " Walsh told the Indianapolis Star. "Something like this makes me realize I'm missing something. Because I didn't have that much time to spend with this little girl."

Casey Walsh died in her sleep last June of an apparent asthmatic attack.

Walsh, who has seen the Pacers qualify for post-season play in 14 of the past 15 seasons, says he's confident his decision is right for the organization and himself in the long run.

"It's healthy to have new people come in and do things and take over," Walsh told the Star. "You can't have the same thinking all the way through no matter how good or bad it is. At a certain point, it needs to be changed. It needs to get new energy. That's why this is good with Larry."

Last Night's Big Winner (Team)

Los Angeles Lakers. Their superstars are simply better than those on the Timberwolves. On a night when Minnesota's Kevin Garnett records 28 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant scores 31 points and Shaquille O'Neal snatches 19 rebounds.

Last Night's Big Loser (Team)

Minnesota Timberwolves. With guard Sam Cassell limited to five minutes of play because of his injured back, the Timberwolves struggled running their offense and missed a key scorer. Game 6 is likely to hold more of the same for Minnesota.

Last Night's Big Winner (Player)

Kobe Bryant. Shows up Garnett, the league's MVP, scoring 18 of his 31 points in the third quarter.

Last Night's Big Losers. (Player)

Latrell Sprewell. Sprewell, one of the Timberwolves top scorers, shoots 22 percent (4-of-18) and finishes with 12 points.