Updated: May 24, 2006, 1:07 PM ET

Heat's energy rolls Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- We hereby amend everybody's Eastern Conference finals prediction to Heat in 4.

Just kidding. You can't really do that, but the ease with which the Miami Heat dispatched Detroit in Game 1 Tuesday night has to give pause to those who felt the Pistons were the better team.

Playoff Schedule
Miami 1, Detroit 0
Game 2: Thu., 8 ET, at DET

Phoenix vs. Dallas
Game 1: Wed., 8 ET, at DAL

The full playoff schedule

Dwyane Wade was limited to 27 minutes by foul trouble, and it didn't matter. Shaquille O'Neal played only 29 minutes and had to be taken off the court as an anti-Hack-a-Shaq preventive measure at the end, and it didn't matter. The Heat committed 16 turnovers to Detroit's six, was outrebounded on the offensive glass 9-5 and got a grand total of zero points from Udonis Haslem, the player on their roster who logged more minutes than any of them.

None of it mattered. The Heat wanted to seize control of the game -- and the series -- and they did without much trouble.

"We were swimming upstream the whole time," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.

The Palace was two-thirds empty by the time the final buzzer sounded, bringing an end to the Heat's 91-86 victory that wasn't as close as the final score might have indicated. Miami held the lead for almost 42 of the 48 minutes and received 25 points on 9-for-11 shooting and five assists from Wade when he wasn't idled by foul trouble. The Heat asserted such control throughout the fourth quarter that more than half the crowd decided it wasn't worth sticking around to see if there'd be a miracle finish.

You can chalk it up as just one victory for a well-rested team against a dog-tired one coming off a seven-game series, or you can surmise that Miami is playing at such a crisp and efficient level that the Pistons' entire postseason hopes will be riding on the outcome of Game 2 Thursday night. They don't want to head down to South Beach for Memorial Day Weekend with an 0-2 deficit, which is why you can expect to see a lot more of Tayshaun Prince defending Wade and a little more of an effort from Rasheed Wallace, who had only seven points and three rebounds on a sore ankle his coach estimated to be about 75 percent.

You can also expect some discernable desperation from the Pistons, whose well-known resilience will be tested in Game 2. They may not have totally moved on mentally from their grueling second-round series victory over Cleveland, but they'll need to in order to keep this thing competitive.

The Heat took the crowd right out of the game by scoring the first 11 points, withstood a third-quarter run that put the Pistons ahead by three, then used an intentional foul against Ben Wallace with 2½ minutes left to prevent Detroit from doing anything that might shift the momentum.

"When they get on a run, they get on a run by making 3s, which is what they were doing and getting back in the game," Riley said afterward. "[If] you've got a 25 percent free throw shooter, I think you have to take your chances on that one possession. It isn't something I would make a habit of doing."

Wallace missed his two free throws and Antoine Walker scored on Miami's next possession, and that was about it.

The Heat ended the night shooting 56 percent from the field, including 75 percent in the first quarter when Wade was 6-for-6 with Richard Hamilton trying to guard him. After Wade picked up his third foul with 7:47 left before halftime and Shaq joined him on the bench with his third foul 2:48 later, the Pistons actually lost ground over the remainder of the half. Wade was whistled for his fourth foul just five minutes into the third quarter with the score tied, but Miami still managed to pull ahead by six by the time Wade returned with 9:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. From there, he had 10 points and three assists to finish the job.

The fresh legs of the Heat remained fresh down the stretch, a product of their six days off after finishing off New Jersey and their coach's decision Tuesday morning to forsake a shootaround in favor of a walkthrough at the team hotel. Riley, who explained he didn't want to spend 3½ hours traveling to and from the arena for shootaround, also revealed the Heat had shattered a chandelier in their hotel ballroom during the walkthrough.

They'll gladly pay for it, and it wouldn't be out of the question for them to shatter another one as a good luck sacrifice if it would ensure a repeat of the performance they displayed in the opener. Somebody else, likely a hotel employee/Pistons fan, will be the one picking up the pieces, anyway.

Detroit will need to do the same thing after this loss, but there are big, legitimate questions regarding how much confidence and how much fatigue the Pistons are carrying into this round after their near-meltdown against LeBron James and Cleveland.

"I don't know where they're going to get some rest. This series is every other day," Walker said. "So I don't know. At this point you're playing to get to the finals."

And the Heat might just get there in four if things go the rest of the way as they did in Game 1.

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Meeting Of The Minds

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Pistons guard Chauncey Billups makes a point to Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace during a timeout in the third quarter.

Hack-A-Ben Likely Here To Stay
Let the head games begin.

We all expected Miami coach Pat Riley to use the "Hack-a-Ben' strategy on Detroit's Ben Wallace at some point in this series.

We just didn't expect him to do it in a game his team was winning.

With 2:28 left and the Heat leading Miami by nine, Riley came out of a timeout and ordered his troops to intentionally foul Wallace. Ironically, it was Shaquille O'Neal who gave up the foul.

Wallace promptly bricked two free throws, although one could point out it was a moral victory that both shots at least hit the rim. That makes him two for his past 19 from the line, and he's now a miserable 22.2 percent for the playoffs. Yes, an NBA player is shooting 22.2 percent on free throws -- essentially making him a safer bet to miss a shot from the line than the average pro is to make it.

Thus, the strategic benefits of Riley pulling out the Hack-a-Ben seem obvious (well, unless you're Cleveland's Mike Brown). But why now, in a game his team had comfortably under control? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Riley's ruse had little to do with Game 1, and everything to do with Games 2 through 7.

He wants Ben thinking about the intentional fouling, and he wants Flip Saunders to be fixated on it as well. Nothing could be more disturbing for Detroit than the possibility of Saunders benching its best defensive player for the first 10 minutes of every fourth quarter, and that's a realistic possibility because of the threat of immediate hacking upon Wallace's entry.

Not that he'll own up to it. Riley insisted the strategy was just aimed at thwarting Detroit's nascent comeback effort.

"When they get on a run, they get on a run by making 3s, which is what they were doing and getting back in the game," Riley said afterward. "[If] you've got a 25 percent free throw shooter, I think you have to take your chances on that one possession. It isn't something I would make a habit of doing."

Sure, whatever you say, Pinocchio Pat.

The question now isn't whether Riley will do it again, but how much further he will take it.

Does he dare to foul intentionally Wallace with three minutes left in a tie game? Better yet, would he be willing to use it as a surprise weapon randomly throughout? For instance, suppose the Pistons are in the bonus late in the second quarter. Will Riley suddenly stick Michael Doleac in the game to hack Ben a few times, just to keep him thinking the rest of the night?

Of course, Wallace can solve all this by just making a foul shot once in a while. Even at a 50 percent conversion rate, the intentional fouling strategy isn't worthwhile in most situations, which is why the "Hack-a-Shaq" is discussed much more than it is actually implemented.

But if Wallace continues to limp along at 22.2 percent, it's an incredibly effective strategy. He's becoming the first player in history who is so bad from the line that, in almost every situation, sending him to the free-throw line is the best defensive option imaginable. It's a brave new world of intentional fouling, and I expect Riley to use the rest of the series exploring its limits.

-- John Hollinger

Our Conference Finals Predictions





(In 6)
(In 6)
(In 5)
(In 7)
(In 6)
(In 6)
(In 7)
(In 7)
(In 6)
(In 6)

Fort Dwyane

Heat guard Dwyane Wade, plagued by foul trouble, made the most of his 27 minutes on the court, scoring 25 while his team fended off comeback threats from the Pistons en route to a 91-86 Game 1 win in the Eastern finals.

Heat Take Game 1

Slamming Speed
Dwyane Wade
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Heat guard Dwyane Wade flew though the air with the greatest of ease -- which proved harder task for the more weary legs of the Detroit Pistons in Game 1.

Extreme Behavior
dwyane wade

Tuesday's Best
Heat guard Dwyane Wade: He was almost the Can't Miss Kid, making 9-of-11 shots en route to 25 points in the Game 1 win over the Pistons. Wade, who sat out more than 10 straight minutes of the second half with four fouls, had 25 points in 27 minutes in the road victory.

Rasheed Wallace

Tuesday's Worst
Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace: Seven points and three boards in 32 minutes of action? 'Sheed's bum ankle isn't helping matters here.

Quote of the Day
"We've got to get rejuvenated, quick."
-- Pistons coach Flip Saunders, after his weary team lost Game 1 to the Heat.

See how all 18 who played stacked up
Hollinger playoff stats (Tim on top)
Plus/minus stats from 82games.com

-- Andrew Ayres

Ramblings From Bill Simmons


Did we ever figure out why Kobe always dresses like he's on his way to guest-host the Muppets?

Big Shot Brob: 1994-2006, RIP.

Well, it took Corey Maggette four months, but he finally exacted his "I can't believe you tried to trade me for Artest" revenge on the Clippers.

Transcript of Jerry Colangelo's phone call to Bruce Bowen this summer: "Hey, Bruce, umm . . . don't bother coming to the Olympic tryouts this summer. No, no, it was nothing you did! I didn't even see the Mavs-Spurs series! Seriously. We just decided to go in a different direction. . . ."

Did you ever wish there was a benchwarmer's equivalent to the Tony Parker-Eva Longoria relationship? Like, why couldn't DJ Mbenga date one of the extras on "Lost"?

I don't care if Dallas ended up winning -- that was still one of the defining Dick Bavetta Games of all time. Hold your head up high, Dick. Hold your head up high. Duncan shot about 75 free throws and was allowed to jump over everyone's back on every rebound. You did your job. You still have the touch.

I know Dallas came back, but Mark Cuban's "Good God, We're Going to Lose to the Spurs Again" Face after the Ginobili 3 was one for the ages. He's the best. The thought of Stern grimly handing a sobbing Cuban the Lawrence O'Brien trophy next month makes me feel all fuzzy inside.

I hate to keep harping on Steve Nash's faults because he's such an extraordinary offensive player to watch, and he was spectacular in back-to-back Game 7s ... but when you play 35 minutes a game during the season, followed by a seven-game series against the Lakers in which you didn't have to play any defense at all, followed by a couple of tough games against the Clips, I don't want to hear how tired you are. Especially if you're a two-time MVP. The fact remains, Nash played only two good games in that series -- Games 1 and 7 -- and the Suns still won the series. If Nowitzki goes 2-for-7 against the Spurs, Dallas is going home right now. So who's more valuable? You tell me.

The complete Bill Simmons column

Four More Ts To Go
rasheed wallace

The only solace for the Detroit Pistons after a far-too-quiet showing from Rasheed Wallace?

Wallace didn't punctuate his Game 1 frustration with a technical foul.

That means 'Sheed takes three Ts into the rest of the East finals against Miami, meaning he's still four away from a one-game suspension.

In the playoffs, players are fined $1,000 each for their first two technical fouls, $1,500 each for the next two and then $2,000 each for techs No. 5 and No. 6. A warning letter is also sent from the league office to any player once he accrues five Ts in the postseason.

Technical No. 7 comes with a one-game suspension on top of a $2,500 fine. Each additional technical from there costs $2,500, with further one-game suspensions after every odd T (No. 9, 11, 13, etc.).

-- Marc Stein

Deep Draft Ambitions
sam cassell

Steve (NJ): We keep hearing about these "young, raw" forwards who are "high-flyers with so much potential" like Tyrus Thomas. Seems to me like there are 5 of these busts for every Amare. (Tim Thomas, Kwame Brown, Tskitishvili, Wilcox, Jeffries, half of the Atlanta roster). Why are GMs still so fascinated?

Chad Ford: Because when you hit, you hit a home run. Many are strikeouts, but so many GMs like to swing for the fences. If they played it safe, Brandon Roy would be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He's as close as you get to a "can't-miss" prospect. He's NBA-ready, very versatile and a good, hard-working kid. However he doesn't have the upside of some of these other guys . . . so he slips a bit. I'm not saying I agree with it, but it is how the NBA world turns. They're more concerned about getting criticized as the GM who passed on the next Amare or Dirk than making sure that the team plays it safe.

The complete Chad Ford chat Insider


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