AUBURN HILLS, MICH., MAY 29 -- Bill Laimbeer, the NBA's biggest angler, was talking fishing on the basketball court.
"I haven't been able to bass fish for about four days, being in Chicago," the Detroit Pistons center said. "It's been kind of hard, being in that brickyard."
Such talk is a metaphor for Laimbeer's shooting, which has gone the way of other endangered species in the last two games of the Pistons' Eastern Conference final with the Chicago Bulls. Tied at 2, the series reconvenes here Wednesday for a critical fifth game. Detroit is 7-0 at The Palace in the postseason this year and 24-4 during the last three postseasons.
Laimbeer's one-for-13 shooting in Games 3 and 4 was only one of the problems that have suddenly beset the Pistons.
There's Chicago's defense, which is collapsing on James Edwards and trapping on the wings and in the corners, forcing hurried shots.
There's Dennis Rodman, who turned his ankle in the first quarter Monday, but finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds. Though he didn't practice today and was officially listed as questionable, he unequivocally puts himself in Game 5.
"I'm all right," he said. "I'll be ready to go. Don't worry about me. If I fall, I'll get up and keep on playing."
There is, obviously, Michael Jordan, who has scored 89 points in the last two games on 30-for-58 shooting. There's Horace Grant, who has grabbed 24 rebounds in the last 63 minutes he's been on the floor.
And there's Bill Cartwright, who though maligned for his lack of offense may be doing the same thing to Edwards that he did to Patrick Ewing in last season's playoffs -- pushing him from where he wants to be.
"He's trying to get in front of me," Edwards said. "To keep him from getting in front of me, I'm going out a little further. I'm just going to let him front me and we can just lob the ball in, or swing it to the other side."
Edwards has scored 38 points in the series after averaging 18.1 points in the first eight playoff games.
The Bulls' defensive tactics have won admiration from the Pistons, the masters of defensive sleight of hand and, when necessary, brute force. But for once it is Detroit that has to respond to what the other team is doing.
"It's the first time I've competed against a Phil Jackson-coached team in the playoffs," guard Isiah Thomas said. "And he has some pretty cute things he's doing. Nothing major, but it's like chess. There's a pawn always hanging around the queen, trying to take it away."
For example, forward Scottie Pippen is guarding Laimbeer, as he did last year. But unlike last year, Pippen also is helping cover Edwards. And with Laimbeer's unusually poor shooting, Pippen has been able to take that extra second inside and still get back in time.
"That's part of the problem," Detroit Coach Chuck Daly said. "They did a great job of trapping us in every corner situation and every screen-and-roll situation."
"It's kind of embarrassing, no doubt about that," Laimbeer said of his last two games. "But two games out of 82, that's the way it goes. . . . I'm going over to Isiah's gym. It seems to work miracles for him."
By committing themselves to all-out pressure, the Bulls forced the Pistons to run down the shot clock before setting up their half-court offense. Detroit didn't handle it well, forcing shots and committing turnovers.
Jordan is continuing to freelance defensively. He started the series double-teaming Thomas, but Joe Dumars took advantage. In Game 3, Jordan stayed on Dumars and helped hold him to four-for-11 shooting. But Monday, he went back to providing weak-side help and double-team help against Edwards.
Not only did Jordan score 42 points, he had three blocks -- all from behind -- and four steals.
"Michael's floating all around the place, and sometimes I don't see him," Edwards said. "I turn to the baseline and he's right there. I have to pick that up and his man has to drive to the basket so we can exploit him on that side."
No one ever said it was going to be easy.
"We didn't expect to sweep them," Thomas said. "We didn't expect to win 4-1 or 4-2. We expected to go seven games. That's what you prepare for. If they say it's a seven-game series or a five-game series, you prepare to play five or seven. You never prepare to play four or five."