- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005

DETROIT — Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown seemed somewhat incredulous when asked whether a return to the Palace of Auburn Hills would help his stagnant team in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

But the Pistons showed their coach he had no reason to be skeptical last night, beating the Spurs 96-79 last night behind big games from players who hadn’t played well in San Antonio in the first two games.

Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 24 points. Chauncey Billups added 20, and Ben Wallace finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

“I think we figured out how hard we have to play,” Brown said. “Their energy has been incredible. I don’t think we realized we were in the finals against a great team with a great coach. It’s one game, and that game is over. Now I think our guys have the utmost respect for those guys, and hopefully we can make it a great series.”

Tony Parker scored 21 points for the Spurs, who still lead the series 2-1. Tim Duncan had 14 points and 10 boards, and Manu Ginobili, who had been such a force in leading the Spurs in the first two games, scored just seven last night.

“They did a great job of forcing turnovers tonight [18 for 23 points],” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “When we lose a game on the road that is something that usually pops up. You just can’t give up that many points off turnovers.”

Last season, the Pistons returned to the Palace after splitting a pair of games in Los Angeles and proceeded to win three straight games to win their first championship in 13 years.

But the Pistons returned home without any swagger this year, having suffered two decisive losses at SBC Center and well aware that no team has fallen behind 3-0 in the playoffs and rallied to win a series.

Making matter more ominous for the Pistons, who had fallen by 15 points and 19 points, respectively, in the first two games, they didn’t come out looking like a team in desperate need of a win.

Detroit managed to take a 13-8 lead on back-to-back baskets by Hamilton and Ben Wallace, but the Spurs found their rhythm late in the first quarter, tying the game at 17-17. San Antonio closed the quarter on a 6-1 run that gave them a 27-21 lead entering the second.

While the Spurs shot a little less than 58 percent from the floor in the first quarter, they struggled to just 29 percent shooting (5-for-17) in the second.

“We just couldn’t get anything going at the offensive end,” Duncan said. “I know I couldn’t. I got some shots that I just couldn’t get to go down.”

Meanwhile, Detroit made eight of 16 shots from the floor in the second and trailed just 42-41 at halftime.

The Pistons then used an 8-0 run early in the second half, punctuated by Ben Wallace’s reverse alley-oop dunk, to go ahead 54-47. During that stretch, Duncan picked up his third foul and had to leave the game for a while.

But the Spurs have other players they can turn to offense, and they did just that, erasing the Pistons’ advantage with a 9-0 run that produced a 56-54 lead with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter.

But after the Spurs’ Tony Parker gave the San Antonio a 63-61 advantage, Detroit reserves Antonio McDyess (12 points) and Lindsey Hunter combined for seven of Detroit’s points in a 9-2 run that gave the Pistons a 70-65 lead they would never relinquish.

In the first two games of the series, the story was Ginobili. But Ginobili got off to a slow start last night. He left the game early in the first quarter after a fall. He returned but attempted just two shots and finished with two points in the first half.

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