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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Larry Brown's uncertain future was not a distraction to the Detroit



Published: Wed, June 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



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.

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.

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."

Team effort

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 eight 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 guard.

"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 Pistons.

Foul trouble

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 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter.

O'Neal's third foul came just over two 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 remaining. 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 remaining 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 to go, 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."




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