Hamilton leads rout with 31 points

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- When the entry pass floated inside to
Shaquille O'Neal, Elden Campbell knocked it away and dashed
downcourt. Richard Hamilton picked up the loose ball and flung it

In a fourth-quarter play that symbolized the entire night for
the Detroit Pistons, the 36-year-old Campbell caught the ball and
went flying in for a left-handed jam, and the decibel level at the
Palace went off the charts.

The dunk by the backup center gave the Pistons an 18-point lead
on their way to a 88-68 victory Thursday night over the Los Angeles
Lakers and a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

"I wouldn't say it buried them, but that was a big play at the
time," said Campbell, adding it was his first breakaway dunk since
he played in Charlotte more than two years ago.

The Pistons bounced back from their heartbreaking overtime loss
in Game 2 with suffocating defense and opportunistic offense that
whipped their fans into a frenzy.

Now, an NBA championship is very much within the Pistons' reach.
No Eastern Conference team has won a title since 1998, but these
Pistons are showing it may be a distinct possibility.

"I'm shocked," Pistons coach Larry Brown said, "but I'm
really proud of the way we played."

Kobe Bryant, the hero of Game 2, was held without a field goal
in the first half and the Lakers were limited to the lowest
postseason point total in their storied franchise history.

"As I told the team, this is only one game,' Lakers coach Phil
Jackson said after the Pistons regained control of a series they've
dominated for all but a few minutes. "We have a couple days to get
our feet on the ground and get ready for Game 4."

Hamilton scored 31 points and Chauncey Billups had 19 as
Detroit's backcourt gave the Pistons just about all the offense
they needed. Throw in double-figure rebounding performances by Ben
Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, three steals apiece from Campbell and
Tayshaun Prince, and it all added up to a lopsided game that could
even be called a mismatch in favor of the team that entered the
series as huge underdogs.

"Most of it was effort related," O'Neal said. "This is a
tough challenge, but we are making it a lot tougher on ourselves."

Game 4 is Sunday night at the arena where two championship
banners hang in the north end zone.

And if form holds, this series might not even make it back to
Los Angeles for a Game 6 or 7.

Nothing worked for the Lakers, from Bryant's offense to O'Neal's
touch to Karl Malone's ailing knee to Gary Payton's slow feet.

Campbell's breakaway dunk put the Pistons ahead 70-52, and Los
Angeles never mounted anything even resembling a concerted comeback
effort. The crowd went wild with 2:10 remaining when little-used
rookie Darko Milicic got off the bench for his series debut.

Bryant finished with just 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting and
O'Neal scored 14. No one else on the Lakers scored in double

"We never get down. That was a heartbreaker in Game 2, and
people thought we would be flat, but we were even more hungry,"
Billups said. "We just keep contesting everything. Tayshaun was
great tonight contesting every shot Kobe took. The Big Fella is a
problem for us, but Ben and Rasheed are down there working, and so
is Elden."

After O'Neal opened the second half with a dunk, the Pistons got
the offense in gear and began to pull away. Billups scored nine
points in the first four minutes of the quarter on a pair of 3s and
a drive around Payton for a three-point play, and a follow dunk by
Prince forced the Lakers to call timeout trailing 54-40.

Asked why the Lakers didn't get him the ball more, O'Neal
replied: "That's the story of my life, buddy."

Bryant eventually hit his first shot with 7:35 left in the third
quarter, making an 18-footer, but the Pistons answered back with a
gorgeous display of passing as Prince fed Rasheed Wallace five feet
from the basket, and he in turn threaded a soft toss to Ben Wallace
for a layup.

More of the same followed, the Lakers growing increasingly
frustrated by each botched possession, the Pistons becoming more
emboldened by their ability to create quality shots. It was 63-51
after three quarters, and the lead grew to 20 before the fourth
quarter was even four minutes old.

Campbell even added another deflection just moments after his
breakaway dunk, and Lindsey Hunter turned it into a layup to make
it 72-52.

"Well, I don't think we can defend better than we did
tonight," Brown said. "Hey, we held them to 68 points shooting 40
percent. For us that's an incredible accomplishment."

Bryant scored only one point in the first half, missing all four
of his attempts from the field and committing one egregious
turnover when he fired a pass several feet over the head of a
teammate and into the second row of the stands.

But as bad as Bryant was, the Pistons weren't much better --
especially in the second quarter. Detroit went 12 consecutive
possessions at one point without a field goal and missed five free
throws in the period to allow the Lakers to stay within striking
range. The Pistons led 39-32 at halftime behind 14 points from

After wavering for two days on whether he'd play, Malone came
out for the opening tip wearing a knee brace for the first time in
his career. His mobility was obviously limited, however, and the
Pistons outrebounded the Lakers 20-10 in the first quarter to open
an early 13-point lead.

Notes: For the third time in the series, Rasheed Wallace sat out
the entire second quarter after picking up his second foul late in
the first quarter. ... On hand for a ceremonial jump ball were four
members of the Pistons' Bad Boys championship teams: Rick Mahorn,
Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson and John Salley. ... The national
anthem was sung by local R&B legend Anita Jones. Aretha Franklin is
schedule to sing the Game 5 anthem, and Kid Rock will do it at Game