Hamilton does it all as Pistons even series

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Larry Brown's uncertain future was
not a distraction to the Detroit Pistons. On the contrary, it was
barely in their thoughts.

Detroit ensured that the Eastern Conference finals will last at
least six games, getting a big performance from Richard Hamilton on
both ends of the court to defeat the Miami Heat 106-96 Tuesday
night in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series.

Bouncing back strongly from a 2-1 deficit just as they did in
the second round against Indiana, the Pistons took the lead for
good after Shaquille O'Neal got into foul trouble midway through
the first quarter and knotted the series 2-2 heading into Game 5 on
Thursday night in Miami.

Game 6 will be Saturday on Detroit's court in what could be
Brown's last home game as coach of the Pistons.

The 64-year-old Brown has met with the Cleveland Cavaliers about
becoming their president of basketball operations, though he
continued to insist Tuesday that he would like to continue coaching
if his health allows it.

"We've got bigger things. We're worried about the Miami Heat,
not what the coach is doing or whatever," Detroit guard Chauncey
Billups said. "We don't care about that now, we're trying to win
the series, trying to defend our championship, not worry about
what's going on after the season."

The performance was the Pistons' most dominant of the series
after they lost Games 2 and 3.

Detroit did not have a single turnover in the first half, never
let Dwyane Wade get into a scoring groove -- thanks in large part to
Hamilton's defense -- and was never seriously challenged in the
fourth quarter.

"We're in much better shape than we were after the other night.
We all felt this would be a great series, and hopefully that's the
case," Brown said. "We have to find a way to win one game on the
road and take care of our own court."

Hamilton scored 28 points, Rasheed Wallace added 20, Billups had
17 and the Pistons finished with six turnovers. The lopsided result
even allowed little-used forward Darko Milicic to see his first
playing time of the series -- the final 93 seconds.

"For the night, their four main guys that they look to
offensively, we didn't do a good job on any of them," Heat coach
Stan Van Gundy said. "Just a great, great game by them. A very
complete effort on their part."

O'Neal, limited by foul trouble to 8 minutes in the first half,
had 12 points and five rebounds. Wade had 28 points on 10-for-22
shooting as Brown made a switch and used Hamilton instead of
Tayshaun Prince as the primary defender on the Heat's second-year

"I got every shot I wanted. I hit some and I missed some, so it
wasn't a big thing to me at all," Wade said.

Detroit also handed Miami its first road loss of the postseason.
The Heat had been 5-0 against New Jersey, Washington and the

O'Neal picked up his second foul just 6:14 into the first
quarter with the score 11-11, and the Heat were behind 32-25 when
he returned 2½ minutes into the second quarter.

O'Neal's third foul came just over 2 minutes later when he was
called for bumping Hamilton on a drive. O'Neal protested that he
had his arms straight up, then frowned at the referee who made the
call, Jack Nies, as he exited for the rest of the half.

Miami had a 13-3 run to pull to 46-42, but things went bad for
the Heat after O'Neal's backup, Alonzo Mourning, drew his third
foul with 3:30 left. Hamilton scored six points and Billups had
four as Detroit closed the half with a 14-4 run for a 60-46 lead.

Wade had just 10 points at the half as Hamilton did a superb job
keeping him out of his rhythm.

"We just wanted to change up," Brown said. "The kid's a
great, great player. You can't always give them the same look."

O'Neal's fourth foul came with 3:05 left in the third quarter
after Miami had pulled to 70-65, and the Heat entered the fourth
quarter trailing 79-69. A 3-pointer by Damon Jones pulled the Heat
to 84-75 with 7:51 left, but Prince hit a short jump-hook to start
a 9-1 run that made it 93-76.

"We're obviously a better team with him in the game, but we
can't worry about 'What if the big fella didn't get in foul
trouble,' and stuff like that," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said.
"We didn't play team defense."

Earlier Tuesday, Brown was unusually defensive and testy in
reacting to a report on ESPN.com that he already had agreed to
become president of the Cavaliers.

Brown has three years remaining on a five-year contract, but the
Pistons have made it clear they would not stand in Brown's way if
he wants to secure a position with another club in case his health
prevents him from coaching.

"All my players ever ask is how I'm feeling," Brown said.
"They know I want to coach, that's what I do. Could you imagine me
not coaching?"

The players have regarded the rumors surrounding Brown as more
of an annoyance than a distraction, though it is clear they aren't
too happy with the timing of the revelations about Brown possibly
leaving for Cleveland.

"We've been in this situation before," Prince said. "The
stakes are higher now, but we dealt with this during the season
with New York and those rumors. The only difference now is that
we're in the Eastern Conference finals. We're a mature team and we
know how to handle it."

Game notes
O'Neal did not speak to reporters after the game. ... The
1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers were the only team in NBA history to
go unbeaten on the road in the postseason (8-0). ... Detroit
avoided falling behind 3-1, a deficit only seven of 159 teams have
recovered from in postseason history. ... Commissioner David Stern
attended the game.


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