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Pistons hold on for series lead

Associated Press
Published May 27, 2004

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Rasheed Wallace made another loud statement. Only this time, he did it during the game instead of before or after it.

Playing his best offensive game in a month, Wallace scored 20 Wednesday and left to a standing ovation as the Pistons controlled the game with their defense and defeated the Pacers 85-78.

The victory gave the Pistons a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven East final.

Wallace has been the most bombastic character during the series. After guaranteeing a Game 2 victory, he rubbed it in with an expletive-filled rant directed at Pacers fans as he walked off the court after that game.

Wallace had a combined 14 points in the first two games while missing 21 of 26 shots. But he shot 8-for-15 and matched Richard Hamilton, who scored 20 for the 25th time in 32 playoff games.

"Just out there hooping, man," Wallace said. "Just taking what they gave me, nothing more than that."

Ben Wallace added 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting and 16 rebounds for Detroit.

Indiana's Austin Croshere drove past Rasheed Wallace for a dunk that capped a 10-0 run and cut Detroit's lead to 76-75.

On the next possession, Rasheed Wallace got the ball in the low post isolated against Croshere and made a turnaround 6-footer. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw.

Reggie Miller got open but missed a 3-pointer then fouled Tayshaun Prince while trying to defend him on a post-up. Prince made one free throw before Al Harrington made a 3-pointer to make it 80-78 with 49 seconds left.

Rasheed Wallace then attempted an inside shot that bounced twice on the rim before falling off. But Ben Wallace was right there to grab it and put it in.

Harrington attempted a 3-pointer from the corner. But Rasheed Wallace got a hand on it, and Detroit rebounded with 18 seconds left to seal it.

"We knew they were going to make a late surge," Rasheed Wallace said. "So it was just up to us to slow them down."

Jermaine O'Neal had 24 points to lead Indiana.

"This series is far from over," he said. "I know it's going to come around for us. We have too many shooters not to make shots."

BOBCATS: Sam Mitchell, who played 13 seasons with Minnesota and Indiana and spent the past two seasons as an assistant with Milwaukee, was named the Charlotte expansion team's top assistant. He will serve under coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff.

TIMBERWOLVES: Point guard Sam Cassell said he expects to start in tonight's Game 4 of the West final despite back spasms and a hip injury. He sat out the fourth quarter of Game 1 then played just 43 seconds in Game 2. In Game 3, he scored 18 in 26 minutes but couldn't keep up with Gary Payton on defense.

MINOR LEAGUE: Commissioner David Stern proposed expanding the National Basketball Development League to 15 franchises, allowing each team to farm out one young player on its roster. The proposal needs the approval of the players union, with whom Stern plans to discuss it. Union spokesman Dan Wasserman did not return a phone call.

RATINGS: Game 3 of the West final was the highest-rated playoff game on cable. The game was seen in 6-million homes, second only to the 2003 All-Star Game, which was was watched by 7.1-million.

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