The defending NBA champions Detroit Pistons seized control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 90-81 Game One win over top seed Miami Heat on Monday.
Detroit got outstanding performances from Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups and controlled Shaquille O'Neal and his new Heat sidekick Dwyane Wade.
"We wanted it a little more," Wallace said. "I was trying to take good shots and just play man, just play."
Wallace had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Billups scored eight of his 18 points in the final five minutes, when the second-seeded Pistons showed their championship mettle and dealt Miami their first loss of the postseason.
O'Neal was a game-time decision with a bruised thigh that has bothered him for over a month. He was his dominant self at times but seemed to be able to play only in spurts.
"I watched him," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "He's having a hard time jumping off of one leg. It's amazing he could be as effective as he was without playing. ... He didn't have the lift, especially turning to the middle, and then defensively, I saw him trying -- it was really hard for him to get out (on the floor)."
In 34 minutes, O'Neal scored 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting. However, he grabbed just five rebounds and was not a factor down the stretch, when the Pistons took control with their defense and clutch play.
"This was nothing but a test for myself," O'Neal said. "[I felt] all right. We had opportunities to win this game. ... I missed a couple of shots that I don't usually miss."
After Miami had erased a 14-point third-quarter deficit and pulled into an 80-80 tie, Billups made a pair of baskets around a free throw by O'Neal to give Detroit the lead for good with 3:50 remaining.
It was still 84-81 when Wallace made a terrific block of Udonis Haslem's jumper and saved the rebound with 1:35 to play.
After a jumper by Richard Hamilton, Wallace took a charge from Eddie Jones.
Wade missed a 3-pointer and Billups hit a runner and two free throws to seal it. The Heat did not have a basket in the last five minutes, missing their last seven shots.
"Hopefully as the series goes on we will get stronger," O'Neal said. "We just let this one slip away."
Wade, who had been unstoppable through the first two rounds, was held to 16 points on 7-of-25 shooting as he was hounded continually by Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince.
Hamilton scored 16 points and Ben Wallace added 13 and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who had six players in double figures and a 41-34 rebounding edge.
"We knew they would come back and when they did we just limited them to one shot and did all the things you have to do down the stretch," Brown said.
O'Neal was not listed in the lineups on the scoreboard but started and made his first four shots before swatting a drive by Billups off the backboard.
"Shaq had a great effort and was a real presence for them early," Prince said. "He's Shaq; we knew he was going to play and be a factor and he was that and more."
Game Two is today at American Airlines Arena, where the Pistons are the only team to beat the Heat since Jan. 21.
"No one has home court advantage," Rasheed Wallace said. "So we got to just go out and play. We got one more game here [Miami]."
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