Spurs yield 90-plus for first time in 14 Finals games

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Three games into the NBA Finals, the

Detroit Pistons finally figured things out: With some energy and

aggression, they can actually play with the San Antonio Spurs.

Not only play with them, but soundly defeat them.

The defending champions summoned the spirit and spunk that had

been missing in the first two games of the NBA Finals, changing the

complexion of the series in a way many thought impossible.

Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton led the way as the Pistons

dominated the final 14 minutes and defeated the Spurs 96-79 in Game

3 Tuesday night.

"I think we figured out how hard we have to play," coach Larry

Brown said. "I think our guys realize it's going to take our very

best to make this a competitive series."

Television ratings have been down and interest has been low, but

the best-of-seven series suddenly looks much more compelling. No

longer is there a chance for a sweep, and never again will anyone

question whether the Pistons can even play with the likes of Manu

Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Co.

Ginobili got hurt in the game's first 30 seconds was a

non-factor for the first time in the series, and Duncan could not

match the energy or enthusiasm generated by Wallace, the NBA's

defensive player of the year. Wallace's dunk with 4:27 left gave

Detroit its largest lead up to that point, 88-73, and the Pistons

held on easily from there.

Now, the Pistons will look to even the series at 2-2 in Game 4

on Thursday night and ensure a trip back to Texas.

Known for their resiliency over the past two postseasons, the

Pistons finally showed the one distinct team characteristic that

had been eluding them since Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference

finals against Miami.

"We knew this was the game that we needed," Rasheed Wallace

said. "And, definitely being the home team came up in that mix and

supplied a lot of energy for us."

Hamilton scored 24 points, including 10 in the third quarter

when Detroit took the lead for good, and Chauncey Billups added 20.

But although the Pistons got most of their points from their

backcourt tandem once again, they were anything but a two-man team.

Ben Wallace had 15 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and three

steals, and Tayshaun Prince and Antonio McDyess each added 12


Detroit became the first team to score 90 points against the

Spurs in 14 NBA Finals games, putting together the type of poised,

pumped-up performance they hadn't displayed since Game 7 of the

Eastern Conference finals at Miami.

Detroit had lost by 15 and 21 points in the first two games of

the series, but they ditched the downtrodden demeanor that

contributed to their undoing in Games 1 and 2.

"You know, tonight we really came out here and took care of

business at home," Hamilton said. "We defended, we helped each

other out and we got a win."

Everything about the Pistons was different, from their defensive

intensity to their dedication in terms of getting more people

involved on offense. Hamilton was more assertive in shaking off the

pesky defense of Bruce Bowen, Prince was much more effective

limiting Ginobili, and Ben Wallace seemed especially motivated to

put two very sub-par performances behind him.

"He was great. He played with energy and got their crowd into

it," Duncan said. "Their aggressiveness was up, and that in

itself fueled what they were doing."

Ben Wallace blocked his five shots in the first quarter alone,

and he had half of Detroit's offensive rebounds in the first half

when Detroit had a 24-12 edge in points in the paint and an 11-0

advantage in fast-break points.

He set the tone right from the start, stealing the opening

inbounds pass after he was called for a jump ball violation, then

racing downcourt for a dunk and a three-point play.

Wallace ended an eight-game streak of scoring in single digits

and a five-game streak with fewer than 10 rebounds.

Ginobili went down just a few seconds later, bruising his left

thigh in a collision with Prince just 21 seconds into the game.

Though he wasn't sidelined for long, the star of Games 1 and 2 had

just four points at halftime with four turnovers. He finished with

seven points and six turnovers.

"No excuses, no reasons, I just didn't play well," Ginobili

said. "I didn't have a great game, and as a team we didn't have

the juice."

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 21 points. San Antonio was

outrebounded 44-37 and committed 18 turnovers leading to 23 Pistons


There were 20 lead changes and 10 ties, but the Pistons took

over to such a degree late in the third quarter and early in the

fourth that Brown was able to empty his bench near the end.

Detroit opened the second half with a 13-5 run ending in an

alley-oop reverse slam by Ben Wallace off a pass from Hamilton, a

play that brought the fans out of their seats and left rapper

Eminem waving a red, white and blue towel from his seat behind the

Spurs' bench.

But the Spurs came right back with a 9-0 run to regain the lead

56-54 before the Pistons closed the period with a 16-9 run to take

a five-point lead into the final quarter.

"There are no games to waste," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said

beforehand. "We've created an opportunity for ourselves, and it

would be great to take advantage of it."

They didn't, and now it's a whole different series.

Game notes

Ben Wallace's five blocks in the first quarter tied Bob

Lanier's club record for blocks in a quarter. ... Doctors used CPR

to revive a man who had an apparent heart attack during the first

half in the seats behind the north basket. The fan received a loud

ovation as he was wheeled out on a stretcher holding his thumb up.

... Keyboardist and vocalist Stevie Wonder played the national

anthem on a harmonica.