Pistons 102, Spurs 71
-- Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace skipped around at center court and pointed to the people on his left, the people in the front, the people on his right, and finally, the people in the back. With each acknowledgment from Wallace, the fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills erupted with applause. Wallace then whirled his finger around his head, bopping around until pure bedlam broke out. This was before the opening tip of Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
From there, the crowd didn't need a conductor to get loud. Not with center Ben Wallace hitting fallaway jumpers, forward Tayshaun Prince cutting and slashing to the hoop for dunks and layups, point guard Chauncey Billups hitting tough jumpers with the shot clock winding down and reserve guard Lindsey Hunter staging an unlikely one-man show in the third period. The Pistons had everything going their way as they proved home court, indeed, is an advantage during a 102-71 victory that tied this best-of-seven series at 2-2.
"I really believe in all honesty that this is probably the best game a team that I've been involved with, in such an important game, it's the best game that we've played," Pistons Coach Larry Brown said.
For the fourth consecutive game, the home team won in lopsided fashion. And, the invincibility the Spurs showed after winning the first two games by an average of 18 points has been wiped clean. The defending champion Pistons have momentum on their side as they have won the past two games by an average of 24 points. When asked if this series would have a close game, Pistons reserve forward Darvin Ham said, "If we play at a neutral site."
The Spurs are in a building that has had the same effect as molten lava for visiting teams in the past two NBA Finals. The Pistons have won five consecutive Finals games at home. They are the only team in NBA history to sweep the middle games since the 2-3-2 format was set up in the 1984-85 season, which they did last season in a bludgeoning of the Los Angeles Lakers. After holding to Spurs to 37.1 percent shooting and forcing 18 turnovers (which led to 25 points), Pistons will be looking to repeat the feat Sunday in Game 5.
"That crowd, man," Ham said. "That crowd will put a lot of pressure on a team, it gets so loud. If you get us out there and we have energy and we're hustling and we're scrapping and we're hustling, getting deflections, getting steals, blocks, getting dunks, it's overwhelming. You have a 10-point lead, it feels like a 30-point lead because of the presence of the crowd and our intensity."
The Pistons had an incredibly balanced attack as Hunter and Billups led seven players in double figures with 17 points. Hunter had more points in Game 4 than he had in the first three games combined (12). He scored nine points during a dazzling display in the third quarter and came from nowhere for a slam dunk in the fourth quarter, receiving a standing ovation when he was substituted with 1 minute 23 seconds left.
"We had some great games in the Finals last year," Hunter said. "This ranks among the best. Everybody had a part in it."
While the Pistons hit every shot imaginable -- such as Rasheed Wallace (14 points, two blocks) tipping in Antonio McDyess's miss with his left hand while Duncan held on to his right arm -- Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker missed driving layups.
"It was a really ugly loss," Ginobli said. "There was no minute in the whole game that we were close."
Duncan said he didn't want to have back-to-back bad games, but Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace didn't give him much choice. Duncan had 16 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Spurs but he missed 12 of 17 shots and was held to five points in the second half. Ginobili, who is still nursing a sore left thigh, and Parker both had 12 points for the Spurs, who lost their reputation as stingy defenders in manner of just 96 minutes. Before the series moved to Detroit, no team had scored at least 90 points against the Spurs in 13 Finals games. The Pistons have done it twice. The Pistons also scored more points in the first six quarters in Detroit (149) than in eight quarters in San Antonio (145).
"We put up numbers," Ben Wallace said. "A lot of people might think it's our offense, but it comes from our defensive play."
Prince and McDyess had 13 points each, Richard Hamilton 12 and Ben Wallace 11 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.
The Spurs looked dazed from the start. They had seven turnovers and seven field goals in the first quarter. Popovich lost his cool for the first time this series when Ben Wallace slapped the ball away from Duncan, leading to a fast break layup for Billups. Popovich, thinking Duncan was fouled, began screaming at the officials and had be restrained by assistant Don Newman before picking up a technical foul.
"I'm not frustrated at all. There are some other words that would be a lot more accurate," Popovich said. "It's disappointing to play two games the same way and not learn. I just think of it as two bad performances and if it doesn't get better, we'll be in big trouble."
The Pistons would later build the lead up to eight before Spurs reserve Beno Udrih hit a three-pointer to bring the Spurs within 20-17. But with the shot clock about to expire, Hunter drove inside and kicked the ball out to Rasheed Wallace, who drained a three-pointer as the Pistons reeled off 14 unanswered points. The Pistons ratcheted up the defense, forcing the Spurs into terrible shots, which ignited the break and led to easy buckets on the other end.
"It's dead even," Rasheed Wallace said. "Now, it's a best of three. So, we know it's going to be a dogfight."