Rip, Ben big again for Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Eastern Conference finals ended
with a ton of missed shots, stingy defense and a forearm shiver.

Fittingly, perhaps.

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points -- four after being flagrantly
fouled by Ron Artest -- to help the Detroit Pistons advance to the
NBA Finals with a 68-65 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night.

The defensive-minded teams set an NBA playoff record by
combining for 60 points in the first half, eight days after they
broke the mark for fewest points in any playoff half.

Both teams failed to even reach 37-percent shooting in the sixth
and final game of the gritty series.

"I don't know if it was a classic in a lot of people's eyes,"
Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "But I guess if the series was
going to end, this is the kind of game it should have ended with."

The Pistons will open the NBA Finals in Los Angeles on Sunday
night against the heavily favored Lakers.

"The Pistons team is built the right way to play the Lakers,"
said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, fired last year after two
successful seasons in Detroit. "They've got big guys that can
shoot the ball deep. They've got rebounding. They've got perimeter
guards that can dribble, pass and shoot.

"They've got a great chance to win a championship."

This will be the Pistons' first trip to the finals since 1990
when the team nicknamed "Bad Boys" for its physical style of play
won its second consecutive title.

It's 14 years later, and the Pistons will enter the championship
round again with a team that relies on defense.

Detroit and Indiana combined for just 60 first-half points in
Game 6, breaking the NBA playoff record of 62 set by the Pistons
and New Jersey during the second round.

They finished with a combined total of 134 -- just four more than
the record.

Detroit's Ben Wallace had 12 points and 16 rebounds, Rasheed
Wallace added 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Chauncey Billups
scored 10.

With red, white and blue confetti flickering and fluttering in
the air after the game, Rasheed Wallace and Hamilton jumped atop
the scorer's table and celebrated with the fans.

They responded by chanting: "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A!"

"A lot of people don't expect us to win, but in our minds and
in our hearts, we feel like we're going to win a championship,"
Detroit's Corliss Williamson said.

Finally drawing the coverage of Artest, the Defensive Player of
the Year, Hamilton scored only one point in the first quarter
before closing the game strong.

Especially, after Artest committed a flagrant foul against
Hamilton by striking him in the face with a forearm, apparently in
retaliation after Artest was hit below the belt.

"It wasn't intentional. He just ran into me," Artest said.

Hamilton pulled himself off the court and made two free throws
to put Detroit ahead -- for the first time -- 61-59 with 3:57 left.

With Artest trying to stay with him around screens, Hamilton
made a runner to put the Pistons up 65-61 with 1:13 to go.

"My teammates just told me to keep my mental part of the game.
Don't let him get into my head," Hamilton said. "Sometimes it
takes something like that to set you right."

Detroit won for the first time in seven games when trailing
after three quarters, while the Pacers lost for the first time in
10 games when starting the fourth with the lead.

Jermaine O'Neal, slowed by a knee injury, scored 20 points to
lead the Pacers. Reserve Austin Croshere scored 12 points, and
Artest added 11 for the Pacers -- held to 10 points in the second
quarter, 17 in the third and 15 in the fourth.

O'Neal's basket with 2:42 left was Indiana's last field goal
until 40 seconds remained.

Indiana set a record for the fewest field goals in a six-game
series with 156 on 447 shots (34.9 percent).

"I think more than anything, it is not our time," Carlisle

Even though he was fired by the Pistons, Carlisle said he was
pleased for them.

"It was tough to lose, but from here on in, I won't be rooting
against them," he said.

Even though the Pistons set out to win the East before the
season -- and felt great about their chances when they acquired
Rasheed Wallace on Feb. 19 -- they're not satisfied.

"We don't want to be content with just being in the finals,"
Ben Wallace said.

Game notes
Brown has 81 playoff victories, tied with K.C. Jones for
fourth place on the career list. Brown ranks second among active
coaches behind Lakers coach Phil Jackson (174). ... Over the past
three years, the Pistons have won their last six games when they
had a chance to advance. ... Faces in the crowd included Kid Rock,
former Pistons coach Chuck Daly, Lions coach Steve Mariucci and Red
Wings captain Steve Yzerman.