Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Pistons recall memorable big games



By JOANNE C. GERSTNER and JIM SPADAFORE
The Detroit News

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Every member of the Detroit Pistons has played in more than a few big basketball games.

There were games that went down to the wire, ending up as a joyful, title-winning moment.

There were games that were lost, leaving the players and coaches devastated - but still hungry for more.

There were even a few big games when they were little kids playing in their driveways, pretending to win it all with a clutch basket.

The Pistons have another shot to make more memories, both for themselves and their fans, in Game 7 against the New Jersey Nets Thursday night at The Palace.

Many Pistons players and coaches shared their favorite memories Tuesday, recalling the big games in their lives.

Coach Larry Brown: "There are a lot of games that have been special. Being a college coach, I'm always looking at close-out games like the NCAA Tournament. Every NCAA game is like a Game 7. They're all pretty incredible.

"I was a college coach for nine years. I went to four Final Fours. The regional finals are a lot like this (Game 7 in the conference semifinal rounds). They're all so significant.

"(In the NBA), those two games with the Knicks (Brown was coaching the Pacers. First game in the 1994 playoffs, Pacers lost. 94-90. Second game, in 1995, Pacers won, 97-90) were like classics.

"Both games went down to the wire. One year Patrick (Ewing) made one, one year he missed it. I always tease him, the one year he made it he should have fouled out. It was an amazing series."

Chauncey Billups: "Game 7 last year against Orlando - it was unbelievable. We were down 3-1 in the series and we won the next two games so it was 3-3. And then we're at home and it's all or nothing.

"Either you execute and do the things that you need to do to win or it's a big disappointment. You lose. The best game you can possibly be in is Game 7 of any series, really. To have that pressure and to have that intensity is unbelievable."

Tayshaun Prince: "Game 7 last year against Orlando was do-or-die, but not really. I won't say Game 7.

"I would say Game 5 when Orlando was here because we were down, 3-1. Five and 6 were the most important games out of all of them to be able to bring it back home for Game 7. Those were the most memorable."

Darvin Ham: "Wow! We played against my teammate Elden Campbell in 2001 when he was with Charlotte and I was with the Bucks. We won the first two games and then dropped three in a row.

"Then we had to go get one in their building and we got that in overtime. "Then we came back home to our own floor and that's where home-court advantage is huge. And we got it done. It went down to the wire."

Elden Campbell: "I guess it would be when we (Los Angeles Lakers) lost in the finals to (Michael) Jordan (of the Chicago Bulls) when I was a rookie (in 1991).

"It was an exciting game but they had a little bit more than we did. That's probably my most memorable Game 7."

Mehmet Okur: "We were in the Final Four of the Euroleague, and we lost a few years ago. I learned that it is not easy to play in the Final Four. But you've got to play hard, play your best. And I learned that. We didn't play all together, we didn't play with heart on that team. No energy, nothing.

"We (Pistons) are different. We have energy and heart. We're pushing ourselves on the court. It's a lot different between Euroleague and here. I don't want to lose this game. I want to push myself out there, give my best for my teammates because I want to win this game."

Corliss Williamson: "Well, I'd have to say I think Game 7 on Thursday is going to end up as being very memorable. But before that, when I was in Sacramento, we played Utah.

"That was like the most nervous that I have ever felt. (The Kings faced the Jazz in the first round in 1999, losing 99-92 in overtime in the do-or-die Game 5). I could feel it before the game. I was nervous, but it went better when I played.

"I feel different this time around though. We all feel confident, we're all ready to play well in Game 7 on Thursday. Everyone playing basketball at this level has been in a do-or-die situation at some point in their lifetime playing basketball. So you step up to the pressure."

Lindsey Hunter: "The biggest Game 7 I have ever played in is L.A. and Sacramento (2002 Western Conference finals).

"We had to win in Sac, it was Game 7, and that was like the loudest crowd, the most exciting thing. (The Lakers won, 112-106 in overtime, to advance to the NBA Finals. The Lakers later won the NBA title).

"It was crazy. Noisy. Intense. It's a major experience that you grow from, and you enjoy it. You never know when you get another chance to be in a situation like that again. You try to soak it all in and whatever it takes to win.

"It's fun and exciting to get another chance to do this again. And this time it's at home."

Richard Hamilton: "You play in so many big games over your lifetime, especially in college. The whole NCAA Tournament thing is either win or go home.

"You love the situation, you ain't really got to say you get another opportunity or whatever. You either put up now or the rest of the season is over.

"That (playing in the 1999 NCAA title game and winning with Connecticut) was probably the biggest for me. Playing at that stage at such a young age, getting the opportunity to win a national championship.

"It was a great feeling because not everybody gets the opportunity to do that."

Darko Milicic: "I played on the (Serbia-Montenegro) Junior National team in the European finals in Lithuania a couple of years ago.

"I couldn't wait to play. I was very happy and excited. I was playing more than here. I was kind of nervous before the game. That was one of the first lineups I was in (in a big game). But now, I really can't feel this (Pistons-Nets Game 7), because I am not playing.

"I really don't feel all the pressure because I am not playing. It is tough. I wish we can do something like winning because of how hard all of these guys have worked."




U.C. BEARCATS
New UC field a big hit with baseball team
Next up for UC: Soccer/track
Photos of the new stadium
• Varsity Village map   (930k PDF file; pan & zoom)

XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Odia no slam dunk for Xavier

PREP SPORTS
Reading hangs on to beat Batavia
Tigers divide, conquer for NKAC Div. III title
Indian Hill overcomes weather, Kings to win
Prep sports results, schedules

BENGALS / NFL
Voluntary team workout draws a crowd
Burress still a no-show as Steelers workouts resume
McNair receives co-MVP trophy eying another prize

REDS / BASEBALL
Colorado rocks starter Lidle
ONLINE EXTRA: Photos of Tuesday's game
Daugherty: Graves is unique
Kearns still stuck with Triple-A Louisville
Cleaning worker saves day for Graves
Big Unit hurls perfecto
Sosa has sprained ligament in back
NL: Schmidt one-hits Cubs
AL: Santana finally loses one

NBA PLAYOFFS
Pacers beat Heat; await winner of Pistons-Nets
Garnett apologizes for 'going to war' comments
Pistons recall memorable big games

NHL PLAYOFFS
Khabibulin thwarts Flyers' comeback bid
Flames one win away from Canada's dream come true

TRIPLE CROWN
Smarty's crew faces the weight of the wait

OLYMPICS
Terror threat taints Olympics

MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Sports digest
Sports on TV, radio

THIS WEEK'S SPORTS POLL
Where will the Reds be at the All-Star break?