PYB 2006

To start with here are some pictures and an article from the www.nba.com web site and the Detroit Free Press web site. After that you will find pictures that I took from the Luxury Suite and from my seat in the "front row" (AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!). It was simply an AMAZING night!! Simply AMAZING!!!

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DETROIT 92, MIAMI 88
Now, exhale
Big Ben's effort helps Pistons even the series

May 26, 2006
BY JON PAUL MOROSI

Ben Wallace, the preeminent Piston, was the only starter left in a quiet practice gym Thursday morning. The surrounding state was unnerved at a possible 0-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals. He was calm. He simply shot free throws, over and over, a repetition of the very act that has caused so much concern this postseason.

He looked confident. He looked good. He made more than 15 in a row -- a fine foreshadow for the stirring performance that followed hours later before a raucous crowd and national television audience.

Wallace was superb when the Pistons need him most, a genuine force on both ends of the floor in a crucial Game 2 against the Miami Heat. He hit his first four shots from the field, collected rebounds over outstretched arms and swatted away statewide anxiety as the Pistons won, 92-88, before another sellout of 22,076 at the Palace.

Wallace, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, arrived for the game with the possibility that this could be his final home game as a Piston. He ensured that would not be the case. His offense, though, was only part of the presence that enabled Detroit to even the series at one game apiece despite diminished offense from fellow starters Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace.

Midway through the third quarter, for example, Ben Wallace stood near the three-point line -- well beyond his comfort zone -- and bounced a pristine backdoor pass to Richard Hamilton for an easy lay-in. Then, on the next defensive possession, he positioned himself to absorb a hulking elbow from Shaquille O'Neal -- and draw the third personal foul on the Miami big man.

Even then, it did not come easily. The Pistons looked stagnant -- as they had in Game 1 -- for much of the fourth quarter. Download Postgame Audio - Listen to Ben Wallace Pat Riley, Flip Saunders, Dwyane Wade and Tayshaun Prince answer questions about game 2 of the Eatsern Conference Finals

Tayshaun Prince, the metronomic forward, was the only Detroit player who seemed comfortable on the offensive end. And he was the lone Piston to score a point -- of any kind -- for more than half of the quarter. He accounted for Detroit's first seven points in the period.

Billups, who played a forced, wobbly final period, was the first Piston after Prince to contribute to the scoring in the quarter. He hit a free throw with 2:49 left. It wasn't much. But it broke the spell. Seconds later, Rasheed Wallace buried a triple for an 81-71 lead. The Palace exhaled.

On Tuesday, the Pistons missed their first six shots. On Thursday, they opened up a 12-point lead midway through the first quarter. And the difference was Ben Wallace. Wallace, who averaged two baskets per game this postseason before Thursday, was suddenly commanding the basketball. His shots -- high-percentage, as always -- were falling. He scored his first points off a pick-and-roll (a common Thursday theme), drew a foul and hit the free throw for a three-point play. He took three shots in the first quarter and made them all.

Then, on one sequence early in the second quarter, he grabbed an offensive rebound after Hamilton misfired on a mid-range jumper. He kicked it out to Lindsey Hunter. He missed. The ball was tipped. Wallace hauled it in again. He muscled it up above his head, faked a pass, pivoted back toward the basket, then found Antonio McDyess open for a dunk.

Wallace whirled around, lunged and whipped his arm in the air to celebrate as the crowd went berserk. But he was not finished. He retreated to the defensive end, kept his eyes up and drew an offensive foul on Dwyane Wade. More chimes. More cheers. More Wallace, circa 2004. He was, above all, moving his feet. He finished the first half with seven points -- and no personal fouls.

The Heat, though, did what the Pistons could not in Game 2: It played an even second period. While Detroit made only 2-of-10 shots when the deficit was three points or fewer in the second quarter of Game 1, Miami sank 10-of-18 shots in the quarter. The Pistons' lead shrank to four at its slightest point. The Pistons, however, withstood the charge, thanks in large part to the sound, fundamental Prince. He executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Ben Wallace to give Hamilton an open three-pointer.

The Pistons led 48-37 at halftime. The lead felt comfortable. And they had earned it without any scoring from Billups. He did not score a point in the first half. He took five shots from the field in the half. He missed them all. His last was an open three-pointer from the left wing, the kind he often makes. He did, however, distribute the ball around a suddenly fluid Detroit offense. The last time he touched the ball -- on the final Pistons possession of the half -- he worked a pick-and-roll with Ben Wallace, who in turn fed Hamilton for a no-doubt-about-it triple for the quarter's final points.

Here are some of the pictures I took at the game. I spent the first quarter in the front row and the rest of the game in a very SWEEEET LB (luxury box) feeling numb because I had spent the first quarter in ROW 1. We are talking ROW 1 here! AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! Anyway, I hope you like them!!

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Comments about anything?

Thomas R. Wolf, Jr. <tom.wolf@wmich.edu>