- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

SAN ANTONIO — For the Detroit Pistons, 20 points from Rasheed Wallace in a playoff game means a victory with the same certainty as death and taxes.

In the two playoff runs since Wallace was acquired last season, the Pistons are 8-0 when the 6-foot-11 Wallace scores 20 or more. That includes a 3-0 mark against Miami in the Eastern Conference finals this season; Detroit was 1-3 when he didn’t reach the magic number in that series.

That’s why the Pistons want Wallace, whom they consider at times too unselfish for his own good, to get a little greedy on offense tonight in Game2 of the NBA Finals. Detroit trails San Antonio 1-0.

“I told Rasheed that he needs to take more than seven or eight shots for us to have a chance to win,” Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince said. “The thing about Rasheed is that whoever has the hot hand, he’ll give that guy the basketball. Whoever he feels has a great matchup, he’ll get the ball to him.”

That person Thursday was Chauncey Billups, who finished with a team-high 25 points. Wallace, meanwhile, made his first three shots, then attempted just three more in the Spurs’ 84-69 victory.

The prevailing logic among the Pistons, from coach Larry Brown on down, is that they’re far more formidable when Wallace is establishing himself on offense.

“Not only are we a better team, but when he demands that ball and gets it going offensively, it opens up everything for everybody else,” Prince said. “Rip [Hamilton] can do his thing on the perimeter. Chauncey and I can get some open shots on the perimeter. Ben [Wallace] can do his thing on the offensive glass. The thing about [Rasheed] is, whenever we need him to get a basket, he can get one for us from the inside or out.

Still, Wallace called the relationship between 20 points and a playoff victory a coincidence.

“No, I don’t think so, because there are times when I only scored two point or no points and we still won,” Wallace said. “I don’t know why a majority of y’all can think that just because I don’t score 20 points, that decides the whole fate of the Pistons. No one man does it. There are five of us out there.”

That might be true. But even though the Pistons have a pecking order when it comes to prioritizing shots, Brown has made it clear that Billups and Hamilton combining for 37 with Wallace getting just six won’t cut it.

“It’s not always about the guard,” Brown said. “You know, I always think the game is played inside out. Most games when we struggle, our perimeter guys take all of the shots. But you’ve got to have your big guys commanding the ball and running the floor, so it works both ways.”

This isn’t lost on Billups, who echoed Prince about Wallace staying involved.

“We had it going a little bit, and Rasheed was really aggressive to start the game,” Billups said. “We love when he’s aggressive. We try to force-feed him. He’s our best player. People don’t always notice the positive things he does.”

Wallace blocked six shots and grabbed eight rebounds in Game 1, and the Spurs know he likely will be far more aggressive for the remainder of the series.

“He’s very talented,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “When he gets his opportunity, he’s going to be very effective. I just have to do the best I can to contest every shot that he takes and not give him the open ones, because the open ones are the ones that are going to build his confidence and really get him rolling. If I can just stay in front of him and make sure that every look that he gets, if he does make it, it’s over a hand or it’s a difficult make, everything else will just kind of flow from there.”

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