- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The start, story line and result were different.

Tayshaun Prince had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Richard Hamilton scored 22 and the Detroit Pistons bounced back — as usual — and held on to beat the Miami Heat 92-88 last night in Game 2, evening the Eastern Conference finals.

Detroit got off to a great start after an awful one in the opener. Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade’s supporting cast was lackluster following its outstanding performance.

But the Heat still made it close with a frantic rally — scoring 17 points in the final 1:46 after trailing by 12.

“I’m going to go to that offense in the beginning of the night,” Miami coach Pat Riley joked.

The conference finals rematch is now a best-of-five series, with Miami headed home to play host to Game 3 tomorrow night.

Wade had 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while O’Neal was dominant with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“I’ve got a busted lip and a black eye,” Detroit center Ben Wallace said after defending O’Neal for much of the night. “But you do what you have to do.”

Detroit, which led by as much as 14 points in the first half, went ahead 57-39 early in the second half on Hamilton’s layup after Chauncey Billups scored his first points on a 3-pointer and a layup.

A 10-2 run pulled Miami within six points midway through the fourth quarter. Rasheed Wallace’s 3-pointer gave the Pistons an 81-71 lead with 2:41 left.

While thousands of fans headed home, Miami wasn’t ready to concede.

Wade’s 3-pointer with 9.8 seconds left made it 90-88 after Prince was called for a 5-second violation on an inbounds pass, though the lanky forward said he called timeout.

The Pistons sealed the victory when Billups connected on two free throws and Lindsey Hunter made a steal.

“When you start playing not to lose, you don’t play aggressive,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “You wait for the clock to keep rolling.”

The Heat had won four straight road games and five in a row overall.

Billups had 18 points and eight assists, Rasheed Wallace scored 16 and Ben Wallace added nine points and 12 rebounds.

“When we play that way as a team, we’re tough to beat,” Ben Wallace said.

Miami beat Detroit 91-86 in Game 1 and snatched home-court advantage away from the top-seeded team in the NBA playoffs. The Heat’s new-look surrounding cast came through in that win — while its superstars were in foul trouble — with Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Jason Williams combining for 41 points.

In Game 2, that trio contributed just 25 points.

“You have to have four or five guys play well,” Riley said.

Miami led 11-0 in the series opener in its first game in a week, while Detroit missed its first six shots playing two days after being pushed to seven games by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Game 2 provided a stark contrast, with the Pistons appearing to have much more energy.

Detroit got off to such a good start that offensively challenged Ben Wallace was outscoring the Heat 7-6 midway through the first quarter. Prince, who tied his career playoff high, made a 3-pointer that capped a 13-0 run to put Detroit up 18-6.

The Pistons led 25-12 after making 56 percent of their shots and holding Miami to 25 percent.

It was the Heat’s lowest scoring quarter of the playoffs, and the fewest points a team has scored against the Pistons in the first quarter this postseason.

Detroit had success in the first quarter keeping Wade out of the lane, forcing him to settle for three missed jumpers, and he had two points on free throws. He had 13 of his 25 points in the first quarter of Game 1 after making all six of his shots.

Wade got closer to the basket in the second quarter and also connected from the outside, scoring 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Detroit scored the last seven points of the first half to take a 48-37 lead.

Wade and O’Neal combined for 26 points on 11-for-20 shooting in the first half, while the rest of the Heat had just 11 points after missing 14 of 18 shots.

Even though Billups didn’t score in the first half, he had five assists and directed a free-flowing offense that helped Hamilton score 20, Prince 12 and Ben Wallace nine on 4-for-4 shooting.

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