Sunday, June 13, 2004

Victory tonight gives Pistons a huge edge


A 3-1 Detroit lead would be almost insurmountable for L.A.

The Associated Press

AUBURN HILL, Mich. - In the previous two rounds of the playoffs, the Detroit Pistons had a chance to a take a 3-1 lead. Each time, the Pistons came out flat, losing to Indiana and New Jersey.

They insist lessons have been learned from their lackluster efforts in their past two Game 4s.

"We're not going to have a letdown. I can't see that," Corliss Williamson said Saturday. "If we do, we're going to be fighting in the locker room."

With a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals, Detroit will host the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at The Palace.

"We've got a game that is probably the most pivotal game of the series, and we understand that," said Chauncey Billups, who is averaging 22.7 points and 5.3 assists in the Finals. "We're confident, but we know that in actuality, we haven't done that much yet."

The Pistons have plenty of incentive to beat the Lakers in Game 4.

Of the 154 teams that have trailed 3-1 in the NBA playoffs, just seven have rallied - and it has never happened in the Finals.

"If you go up 3-1, of course you're going to taste what it might feel like to win a championship, because you're only one game away and you have three shots to win one," Williamson said. "The odds are in your favor, but until that time comes, you really can't talk about that."

The Pistons know it's not safe to discuss 3-1 series leads based on what happened against the Pacers and the Nets.

With a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, the Pistons lost to Indiana 83-68 at home. After winning the first two games of the conference semifinals, Detroit lost the next two at New Jersey by an average of 16 1/2 points.

"We came out flat," Williamson said. "We weren't energized. We weren't sharing the basketball. We thought we could just show up and we'd win, and the other team would fold. They hit us in the mouth first, and we didn't respond well. We have to draw from those experiences."

The Pistons have not been unbeatable at home. In each of Detroit's three series - against Indiana, New Jersey and Milwaukee - it lost a game at The Palace.

NBA Finals

Best-of-seven

TV: Ch. 9, 2.

June 8: Detroit 87, L.A. Lakers 75

June 10: Lakers 99, Detroit 91

Thursday: Detroit 88, Lakers 68; Today: L.A. Lakers at Detroit, 9 p.m.; Pistons lead series 2-1

Tuesday : L.A. Lakers at Detroit, 9 p.m.

Thursday, June 17: Detroit at L.A. Lakers, 9 p.m., if necessary

Sunday, June 20: Detroit at L.A. Lakers, 9 p.m., if necessary




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