INDIANAPOLIS -- If you complain about your company car in the presence of someone earning minimum wage, don't be surprised when said someone checks you on it.
The defending champion Detroit Pistons have played the past two games of their East semifinal series with rival Indiana as though they expect to be given something -- by the Pacers, by the officials, by somebody, I don't know. Indiana hasn't been given anything all season, least of all respect. The Pacers are playing like they know they have to earn anything they get. That's one explanation for why Indiana has a surprising 2-1 lead.
Detroit trailed by 18 with 65 seconds remaining in the first half and by 13 after three quarters. But the Pistons rallied to take a 72-71 lead -- their first since 4-2 -- with 2:09 left. It was short-lived, as Richard Hamilton was assessed his sixth foul for grabbing Reggie Miller's jersey as the latter was running off a screen. Miller made both free throws.
It was Pacers 77, Pistons 74 with half a minute left. The Pacers set up Miller isolated on Lindsey Hunter on the right wing. Miller drove to his left and appeared to extend his right elbow, Hunter fell and Miller stepped back and knocked down the clinching shot. Final score -- Indiana 79, Detroit 74.
But it wasn't over.
Larry Brown had something to say about the officiating. He didn't like the call against Hamilton and he didn't like the no-call on Reggie. Brown might be right. But complaints about unfair treatment fall on deaf ears here in Indiana.
"I don't think there's anybody like [Miller] or anybody who'd take it or anybody who'd make it like him," Brown said. "Look at that. You tell me. Go back to how we talked about at the beginning of this year how they wanted to improve. You put it on the wrong people instead of putting it on the players.
"Just look at the film," he continued. "He made a great shot, but you look at the film and you write it down and you send me your judgment on that. It was an unbelievable shot. But how did he get so open? He got in position and like I always say, great players make great plays. when you make no field goals in the last seven or eight minutes, tell me how they can still win just shooting free throws. I'd rather lose on how we missed shots rather than how they hit free throws."
Before we go on, now's an appropriate time go back to something Pistons reserve forward Darvin Ham said Tuesday regarding Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.
"When the time presents itself," Ham said, "he really stands up and defends his team."
Friday night was one of those times. The usually reserved Carlisle took a detour from his customary high road. His Pacers had just taken a second game in a row from the favored Pistons, and someone had the -- how do they say it? -- the AU-DA-CI-TY to try to take away from the accomplishment.
Uh-uh. Carlisle wasn't having it. So he had, for him, what would be considered an out-of-body experience during his postgame press conference, which immediately followed Brown's.
"I agree with what Larry said," Carlisle responded. "I think the players should decide it. The referee allowed Reggie Miller to decide the game with a difficult shot. He made it. Hey, you can call it an offensive foul maybe it's a flop. Lindsey Hunter is a great defender. You can go either way on that.
"They shot more free throws [28 to 27], we committed more fouls [25 to 23] than they did," he said. "We lose Jermaine O'Neal on an incidental play with 2:30 left to go in the game. I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear it. Not with the season we've had. Not with what we had to fight through."
As he said "fight through," Carlisle slammed his right hand on the podium for emphasis.
"You must be steadfast in your abstention from falsehood," Carlisle continued. "That's a simple way of saying don't kid yourself. The truth is the truth. We're holding on for dear life, really, all this season, and we have to hear about how the officials blew the game. C'mon! Seriously. I disagree. I think it's ridiculous. Not with the way both teams played."
Carlisle had every right to go off. His team had a bunch of excuses this season, but they never made them. Brown was upset because he believed the officials screwed the Pistons. League officials -- well, one in particular, named David Stern, who was present at the game -- tried to screw the Pacers back on Nov. 20 after Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and O'Neal behaved as if they all had a few screws loose during the infamous brawl with fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills. So what Carlisle really meant to say was, "I ain't even trying to hear that."
If you didn't, you should have seen the emotion with which he spoke. It was righteously indignant. He was offended. Can't say I blame him. Absolutely, Brown has every right to complain if he feels his team was wronged, and I'm not saying he has to watch what he says around the Pacers just because a few of their players got themselves suspended. It just sounded a little whiney, honestly, like a professional athlete lamenting to the garbage man about not being able to feed his family.
Chew on this -- Brown needs to spend more time worrying about his and his players' performance than those of the officials. After all, no one told the Pistons to shoot 31.3 percent through the first three quarters. No one told them to go the entire game with only one second-chance point. No one told them to turn it over 18 times, leading to 17 Indiana points. Until Detroit exploded for 29 in the fourth, they had scored 78 points in five quarters. Detroit is being outplayed and if coaching is getting a team prepared to play, then Brown is being out-coached by Carlisle, his predecessor in Detroit.
Brown really has no complaint anyway. Hamilton clearly had a handful of Miller's jersey on his sixth foul, not to mention the fact that Miller was hit with a couple similar calls back in Detroit.
"I don't think it needs to be called in playoff basketball," Miller said, "but if you call it on me, call it on him."
Did Brown honestly expect the officials to hit Miller with a charge in the final seconds of what could be one of his last games? I like Hunter a lot, but let's keep it real -- we're talking about Lindsey Hunter. Reggie Miller. Lindsey Hunter.
"I tried to use his aggressiveness against him and put my body on him," Miller explained. "I wanted to create some space for myself and I did."
We'll be talking about an upset if the Pistons don't get their act together real soon. BTW, Rasheed Wallace has already predicted the series will be 2-2 heading back to Detroit.
But of all the Pistons who talked Friday night, Ben Wallace was the one who got it right when he said, "We've got to stop talking and start playing."
No argument here.
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.