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Detroit ready to defend home court

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons snatched home-court advantage away from the Miami Heat by splitting the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals on the road. That didn't satisfy Chauncey Billups.

''We feel like we gave one away in Game 2,'' Billups said Saturday. ''We want to come out and validate that, and use that as motivation.''

With the Eastern Conference finals tied at a game apiece, the Heat also want to play with a sense of urgency when the best-of-seven series resumes Sunday night at The Palace.

Damon Jones said the Heat have to approach the game as if it is the most important one they'll play this season.

''We're going to put all our eggs into one basket going into Game 3,'' he said.

Detroit, which will host the next two matchups and Game 6 if necessary, opened the series at Miami with a 90-81 win after six players scored in double figures and Dwyane Wade was held to 7-of-25 shooting.

The Heat responded with a 92-86 victory as Wade had 40 points and the Pistons shot 38.3 percent.

''We've got to go up there, get one or two,'' Miami's Shaquille O'Neal said after Game 2. ''I know we can do it. We should be right back on track.''

O'Neal (thigh), Jones (heel) and Udonis Haslem (finger) did not practice Saturday in Miami while Richard Hamilton (calf) did not participate fully in the defending champion's workout. All four are expected to play Sunday night.

''It's affecting me because I'm shooting off one leg,'' said Hamilton, who has scored 37 points on 15-of-43 shooting in two games. ''I'm getting every shot I want, I just have to start making them.''

One day after Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said Detroit's crowd was willing to do and say anything to distract the opposition, he didn't want to revisit the topic with the same gusto.

''I'm not going to get into that,'' Van Gundy said Saturday.

Detroit's Rasheed Wallace said it was too late for Van Gundy to defuse the subject.

''That's the wrong thing to say,'' Wallace said. ''That's just getting fuel to the fire.''

The Palace has become an infamous venue since a Nov. 19 brawl, which started on the court between the Indiana Pacers and the Pistons before spilling into the stands and back on the court. In the playoffs, a fan was arrested for tossing a coin at Allen Iverson on Philadelphia's bench.

''I think we have the best fans,'' Detroit coach Larry Brown said. ''We had a few one night that got out of hand, but that was way back, it seems like 10 years ago.''

Miami's Eddie Jones said he couldn't repeat what has been said to him and teammates at the arena in suburban Detroit.

''They're a brutal crowd,'' he said. ''But that's because they love the game, they love their team.''

When Miami played at The Palace a week after the melee, a fan was ejected for inappropriate heckling.

Miami insists it will be concentrating on what happens on the court and the Pistons have a similar mind-set, despite the latest in a long line of reports about Brown's departure following the season.

''It doesn't affect me at all,'' Billups said. ''We're all focused on one goal right now and that's trying to defend our title. We'll worry about all of that afterward.''

Brown has said he has been clear about his plans with Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations, and his boss confirmed that Saturday.

''Larry and I are on the same page and we talk every day,'' Dumars said. ''Larry has been honest and upfront with me throughout this entire season.

''Winning is the most important issue for all of us and Larry has done an incredible job of keeping our guys focused.''

The Pistons have a plan to slow down Wade after he scored 20 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday.

''We just have to be more aggressive with him,'' Wallace said. ''We let him take the shots he wanted in Game 2. He did a good job — can't take it away from the young fella — but we just can't make it that easy on him.''

Wade said the Heat feel good about their chances.

''We're very confident we can go up there and win.''



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