AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- For the first time since the season
opener, Rasheed Wallace strutted into The Palace with the
boxing-style championship belts he had made for the Detroit
Then the demonstrative forward showed how he plans to help the
Pistons defend their title.
Wallace scored 24 of his 29 points in the second half Saturday,
helping Detroit pull away from the Philadelphia 76ers 106-85 in the
first game of the NBA playoffs.
"There's no pressure on us. Most of the attention is on Miami
and San Antonio," he said. "We like being on the back burner."
The Pistons went from Eastern Conference contenders to champions
after dealing reserves and No. 1 picks for Wallace just before the
trading deadline last season. He gave the Pistons just what they
needed with his inside-outside scoring, defense and swagger.
"You've got to know Sheed to know the intangibles he brings,"
said Philadelphia's Chris Webber, a former teammate of Wallace's.
"You can tell what a difference he makes on their team."
Allen Iverson had 30 points and 10 assists and Webber scored 27,
but that wasn't nearly enough for the Sixers.
"We played one quarter of basketball," Iverson said. "That's
not enough to beat nobody."
Detroit will host Game 2 in the best-of-seven series Tuesday.
The seventh-seeded Sixers started the game with a
nothing-to-lose mentality, and it helped them build a 16-point lead
in the first quarter before Detroit went ahead for good late in the
Antonio McDyess scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter
to lead the Pistons' comeback.
"He killed us," Iverson said.
Detroit's Tayshaun Prince finished with 23 points, Richard
Hamilton had 17 and Chauncey Billups added 11. Ben Wallace tied a
Pistons playoff record with seven blocks and had seven points, four
steals and 10 rebounds.
"I was just trying to figure out who the best player on the
Pistons is, and I think I came out with a five-way tie," Sixers
coach Jim O'Brien said.
Detroit followed up a 16-point first period with 32 points in
each of the next two quarters.
Wallace got off to a slow start against his hometown team,
scoring just five points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half. But
he had 16 points in the third quarter and eight in the fourth.
He scored 12 of Detroit's 14 points over the first 3-plus
minutes of the second half -- while Iverson had all six of
Philadelphia's points -- to put the Pistons ahead 62-52. Detroit led
by as many as 13 in the third before starting the fourth with an
Wallace made consecutive 3-pointers midway through the fourth to
extend the lead to 15.
"I knew it was going to be a good night for him when he came in
with his championship belt on," McDyess said.
Iverson and the Sixers faced their former coach, Larry Brown,
who left to lead the Pistons two years ago. Iverson hugged Brown
before the tipoff and pointed out his family sitting in the stands.
Brown coached Iverson for six of his nine NBA seasons and all 57 of
his previous playoff games, including the 2001 NBA Finals.
The Sixers got off to a great start Saturday.
Philadelphia made its first four shots and five players scored
its first five baskets. The Sixers led by 16 twice in the first
quarter, shooting 61.1 percent. The Sixers had five steals and five
blocks as they managed to collapse their defense in the lane while
jumping out in the passing lanes for steals.
"In the first two timeouts, I told them that this isn't how we
have been winning games," Brown said. "We needed to slow down."
Trailing 28-16 at the start of the second, McDyess sparked
Detroit's turnaround with 13 points, three above his average, on
6-for-7 shooting in the quarter.
Prince's 3-pointer late in the half gave the Pistons their first
lead and it capped a 15-2 run. They led 48-46 at halftime.
Iverson shot 3-for-4 in the first quarter and 1-for-8 in the
second. He had 11 points in the third quarter, preventing the
Sixers from falling even further behind.
"A loss is a loss -- one point or 21 points," Iverson said. "I
don't care about that. We came in here trying to steal a game, and
we didn't get it done. We've got another opportunity Tuesday."
Winners of Game 1 have gone on to win 249 of 317 (78.5
percent) of best-of-seven series. ... The two champions before the
Pistons -- San Antonio and Los Angeles -- lost in the second round of
the playoffs the following year. ... Brown improved to 86-79 in the
playoffs, the leader among active coaches and trailing just Phil
Jackson (175), Pat Riley (155) and Red Auerbach (99) in career
postseason wins. .... Faces in the crowd included Michael Phelps,
Kid Rock and Plaxico Burress. ... Ben Wallace matched Bob Lanier's
team record of seven blocked shots, set in 1976. ... Webber and
Rasheed Wallace were teammates in Washington during the 1995-96