Billups can score, pass

Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2005

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — When Detroit's Chauncey Billups played for Rick Carlisle two years ago, he was told to do what came naturally.

Shoot.

When Carlisle was fired and Larry Brown was hired, the point guard was forced to do something else.

Pass.

''That was a huge switch for me because when Rick was here, it was me and Rip (Hamilton) doing most of the shooting and scoring,'' Billups said Monday. ''With Larry, it's different because he didn't want his point guard to do all of that.''

Billups showed he still can score if he has to — or wants to — in Game 4 against Carlisle and the Indiana Pacers. He scored a playoff-high 29 points to lead Detroit to an 89-76 win Sunday at Indiana, tying the Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-2.

Billups was dominant much like he was last year in the NBA Finals, when he was named MVP, and like he was at times this season. Still, the eight-year veteran didn't earn his first All-Star game selection.

Carlisle said the omission was ridiculous.

''He can control the game from the point guard spot as few players in the league can,'' he said.

Game 5 in what has become a best-of-three series is Tuesday in suburban Detroit.

''Hopefully there won't be a Game 7,'' said Rasheed Wallace, who guaranteed Detroit would win Game 4. ''If we go out and do what we have to do, we won't have to worry about that.''

Billups didn't want to look that far ahead.

''Game 5 is a big game because no matter how it goes, it's going to be an elimination game on Thursday (at Indiana),'' he said.

The Pacers likely need their best players — Jermaine O'Neal and Reggie Miller — to play like stars to advance. O'Neal has made just 6 of 26 shots over the past two games while Miller is coming off a single-digit scoring game for the second time in the series.

''You win as a team and when you struggle you lose as a team,'' Carlisle said when asked about O'Neal and Miller. ''We've got to get the wheels back on the wagon, but we could certainly be in a lot worse situation than we are now.''

O'Neal still likes Indiana's chances.

''We know we can go and win in their gym,'' O'Neal said. ''They've got to feel we're going to come back. There's just too much at stake. Obviously, we let a good opportunity slip out of our hands. There's nothing we can do to change the outcome, but there's a lot we can do to determine what happens in the next game.''

When the Pistons needed a lift on Sunday, Billups provided it. After the Pacers took a 9-2 lead, Billups helped Detroit go ahead 17-10 with nine points and three assists in less than five minutes.

The Pistons were ahead 56-42 midway through the third quarter, then clung to a 56-50 lead before Billups came through again. He scored seven of Detroit's next 11 points to give the Pistons a 15-point lead.

''It's about being aggressive and just trying to keep some pressure on them,'' Billups said.

Billups said he has to balance looking for his shot and deferring to teammates under Brown.

''By nature, I'm a scoring point guard, but with him being here, I've learned to be able to dominate games in other ways by passing and being a good defensive player,'' he said. ''I've had to learn to be able to orchestrate the offense without having to feel like I have to score to be effective."

''But still, scoring is the best thing I can do. It's tough to know when it's right and when it's wrong.''

There are even times when Brown tells Billups he's passing up good shots.

''It's happened a few times in the playoffs and it's weird because most of the time he's saying shoot less,'' Billups said.

Brown coached pass-first guards at his two previous stops: Philadelphia's Eric Snow and Indiana's Mark Jackson. When he tried to alter Billups' game last season, the two often clashed.

''I would never go home hating him,'' Brown said. ''I just try to coach him and make him better. I'm fortunate that he understands that.

''I look back on last year, going from Rick Carlisle to me was not an easy thing. Then lo and behold, he wins the MVP.''



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