AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Tayshaun Prince (search) looked down upon Manu Ginobili (search) from the right wing, faked him out with a quick move and darted to the basket for a resounding dunk. It was easy, really. Almost too easy. The same could be said for the rest of the Detroit Pistons' 102-71 victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night that evened their series with the San Antonio Spurs at two games apiece.
Once again, it was a lopsided result — the fourth in as many games.
But what was different this time was the degree of dominance shown by the defending champions, a mix of suffocating defense and varied offense that left the Spurs looking befuddled, bewildered and beaten.
"I've always said when our defense is clicking we get some easy transition baskets and you never know how much we can score," said Detroit guard Chauncey Billups (search).
Game 5 in Detroit (search) will be Sunday night when one of these teams will emerge one victory away from the title. Games 6 will be played on the Spurs' home court Tuesday night, and Game 7, if necessary, will be next Thursday.
"It's a three game series now. It's going to be a lot of fun," Billups said.
The home team has won every game in the series thus far.
Prince's drive and dunk came as the Pistons were taking control with a 14-0 run bridging the first and second quarters, and it was never close the rest of the way. When the Spurs tried to force the ball inside, a swarm of defenders and a collection of long arms was there to swat at them, bother them and break them.
Duncan had the best stat line of the night with 16 points and 16 rebounds, but if there was ever a misleading set of numbers, that was it. The two-time finals MVP was never able to get into any kind of an offensive rhythm against the defense of the two Wallaces, Ben and Rasheed, and no one stepped up to take on a bigger share of the offensive load.
Contrast that with the Pistons, who received big boosts off the bench from Lindsey Hunter (17 points) and Antonio McDyess (13 points) in support of Billups' 17 points, Rasheed Wallace's 14, Prince's 13 and Richard Hamilton's 10.
"We got a lot of guys who can score. Tonight, Chauncey recognized I had it going, and like I said before the game, I still know how to put it in the hole a little bit," said Hunter, an 11-year veteran averaging just 3.3 points in the postseason. "My dad always taught me the only way you know if the next one is going in is to put it in the air. So I've always lived by that."
Detroit had a 22-10 edge in fast-break points and a 13-1 edge in steals, led by Ben Wallace's three.
The Pistons took the first double-digit lead of the game early in the second quarter by pressuring rookie backup point guard Beno Udrih (search). A midcourt trap by Rasheed Wallace and Hunter resulted in a steal, and Prince scored on the ensuing fast break to make it 27-17.
A turnover by Ginobili off another trap led to a layup by Hunter for a 14-point lead, which was followed by an offensive foul on Duncan and a three-point play by Antonio McDyess that made it 34-17.
The big lead held for the rest of the first half, the Pistons calmly walking to their locker room at intermission with a 51-36 lead after getting at least eight points from four starters — Billups, Prince and both Wallaces, while Hamilton made up for his lack of scoring (four points) with five defensive rebounds. As a team, Detroit had 16 assists and just one turnover.
The Spurs came out for the third quarter looking to take the ball to the basket, and their first two possessions ended with driving layups.
But the difficulty of trying to sustain that type of an offense against the Pistons' swarming, smothering defense was established over the past two seasons, and they immediately showed why. San Antonio's next two possessions ended with blocked shots by each of the Wallaces, and Duncan then was left open at the top of the key but couldn't knock down a wide open look.
A steal led to a fast-break layup by Prince, and another blocked shot by Rasheed Wallace on the Spurs' next possession led to yet another breakaway layup by Prince to make it 59-42.
The Pistons had four blocks and two steals in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter, and then they started getting some offense from an unusual source — Hunter. He hit a pair of jumpers from the corner and another jumper from the lane, and McDyess added back-to-back baskets late in the quarter to help Detroit to a 74-57 lead entering the fourth.
The lead grew as high as 31 from there, and Duncan and Ginobili were rendered spectators for the final 5 minutes as the Pistons finished off the job.
Notes:@ the win was the 99th career coaching victory for Brown in the NBA playoffs, tying him with Red Auerbach for third in league history behind Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. ... Despite having to be back in New York for a collective bargaining meeting Friday, commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Russ Granik attended the game. ... Carrie Underwood of "American Idol" fame sang the national anthem and received an enthusiastic applause.