Heat 88, Pistons 76
-- How bad did the night go for the Detroit Pistons? They stifled Dwyane Wade in the first quarter and it didn't matter. They shackled him in the second quarter and it didn't matter. In the second half, things got worse for Wade, who left the game twice with a rib muscle injury, retiring to the locker room for good with more than nine minutes left. And it still didn't matter.
The Pistons, enfeebled by fouls, hindered by frustration, stifled by Miami's defense and overcome by just about every Heat player except for Wade, lost 88-76, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at American Airlines Arena.
The Pistons' strategy from the opening tip-off seemed straightforward: stop Wade first with hard-hitting double teams, worry about everyone else later. There was, though, much to worry about later. Even with Wade playing just 27 minutes and scoring just 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting, Detroit fell behind 3-2 in this best-of-seven series, which resumes Saturday at Detroit.
While Miami must have been pleased with its team effort in front of 20,225 fans wearing red and clacking clackers, Wade's status for Saturday remains in question, though Wade said he hoped to play. Wade said shortly after the game that he suffered the injury while executing a crossover dribble on the last shot -- a successful one -- he hit before departing. He described the pain he was feeling as sharp.
"With me being young, hopefully I can bounce back real quick," Wade said. "It [stinks]. . . . Any movement to my left or my right is going to hurt. I guess my wife is going to sleep in another bed tonight, because if she hits me it's going to be a problem."
Heat Coach Stan Van Gundy said it was unclear whether Wade would be able to play in Game 6 and acknowledged that players would likely "wonder and worry" about that question Friday.
Before Wade's departure, things looked great for the Heat. As Shaquille O'Neal rebounded from one of his worst playoff performances ever, scoring 20 points with an efficient offensive performance, and as Damon Jones finally emerged as a threat in this series, dropping in 15 key points, Detroit couldn't shake off its foul trouble and shooting problems. The Pistons drew fouls they deserved and fouls they didn't, but there was no question about Detroit's shooting. It was poor from any vantage point.
There was no greater poster child for Detroit's troubles than Rasheed Wallace, who scored just two points and was charged with five personal fouls. Three of Wallace's fouls were offensive, and two of the calls left him face-down on the court, buried by his own frustration. Detroit hit just 39 percent of its shots (30 of 78) and only 27 percent from behind the three-point line (3 of 11). Richard Hamilton, Detroit's leading scorer, collected his 21 points by shooting 7 of 18 from the field.
"We let the refs get into our heads early and that messed up our flow of the game," Hamilton said.
The second quarter was so bad for the Pistons that they essentially shut down Wade with aggressive double-teaming yet still fell behind by 14 points. While frustrating Wade, who only hit one field goal, the Pistons ran into an assortment of other problems. They allowed O'Neal to maneuver his sore right thigh comfortably in the lane (he had 15 points by halftime). They scored just 13 points. They shot poorly, converting 6 of 20 attempts (30 percent). They committed six turnovers. They drew damaging fouls -- some questionable -- including three straight offensive fouls that negated points and so incensed Coach Larry Brown that he drew a technical foul.
The miserable quarter was capped appropriately: Rasual Butler, inserted with just over a minute left to replace Wade and ensure that Wade didn't draw his third foul, popped in a three-pointer seconds after stepping on the court, giving Miami a 53-39 lead going into the third quarter.
"They defended great," Brown said. "Their effort was phenomenal. . . . They had a lot of people making a huge contribution."
Butler had fallen so far out of favor with Coach Stan Van Gundy that he plummeted from opening-night starter to little-used player who averaged precisely 1.0 point per game in the Heat's opening playoff round. Thursday night, though, he chipped in 12 and converted 5 of 10 shots.
"He had a big game tonight," Van Gundy said. "It's really a credit to his perseverance."
From the Pistons's standpoint, a whole bunch of Heat players displayed that quality.
"Man, they came to work," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said. "We did, too, but, I mean, they just got it going. . . . Guys that you don't expect to have big nights had big nights tonight."