Partly Cloudy Currently: Auburn Hills, MI
Temp: 63° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EDT Sat May 5, 2007
  • TV: TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap | Series Breakdown

DETROIT (AP)—Rasheed Wallace and the Detroit Pistons respect Chicago, particularly after the Bulls swept Miami, and expect the upcoming series to be competitive.

Wallace, however, likes Detroit’s mind-set over Chicago’s entering the matchup.

“I think they’re happy to be here,” he said. “We’re on a mission to go ahead and win it.”

Game 1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal is Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Bulls have advanced in the playoffs for the first time since 1998, when Michael Jordan led them to their sixth title.

Detroit has assumed its usual position by making it to the second round for the sixth straight year, and seems to be highly motivated to at least reach the NBA finals for the third time in four years. The playoff-tested Pistons are coming off their first series sweep since the Bad Boys era, disposing of the Orlando Magic with four businesslike wins.

Extra motivation isn’t necessary, but ex-Piston Ben Wallace will provide it.

Wallace was wooed away by Chicago as a free agent 10 months ago with a four-year, $60 million deal. That was $10 million more than Detroit was willing to pay the four-time defensive player of the year and the cornerstone of the franchise’s turnaround.

The night before his only game this season at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Wallace had dinner with some Pistons and went to their locker room to joke around after the game.

Rasheed Wallace said his friendship with Ben Wallace is bigger than the game, but quickly added there will be “no love” for him during the best-of-seven series.

“It’s different from the regular season,” he said. “Before and after the game, it’s all chummy, but once you (are) between the lines on that 94 feet, there ain’t no friends.”

During his six seasons with the Pistons, Ben Wallace’s popularity in Michigan as a sports figure was rivaled only by that of the Detroit Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman.

He was just what the Pistons needed when they acquired him and Chucky Atkins from Orlando before the 2000-01 season in a sign-and-trade deal for Grant Hill, and his blue-collar game fit in seamlessly in the Motor City.

Wallace helped Detroit advance in the playoffs in 2002—for the first time since 1991—and get to the conference finals in 2003, then win a title and reach the finals the next two years. The Pistons won an NBA-high and franchise-record 64 games last season, then lost to the eventual champion Heat in the conference finals.

After playing a regular season plus four playoff games in Chicago, Wallace sees a lot of similarities between the teams.

“I think the biggest thing is unselfish play,” he said. “Guys are not going to try to take over games themselves. They’ll defer to their teammates.”

The Pistons tried to make up for the loss of Wallace by signing free agent center Nazr Mohammed. When it was clear Mohammed wasn’t going to pan out, five-time All-Star Chris Webber was added in January for about $650,000 after he was cut by Philadelphia.

Webber added a new dimension with his shooting and passing, allowing the Detroit offense to play five-on-five for the first time in years because Wallace was only a factor on offense if a teammate missed a shot.

Webber averaged 11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and three assists in 43 regular-season games and scored in double figures in each game against the Magic.

Wallace grabbed 10.7 rebounds and blocked two shots a game during the regular season, the lowest averages in his defining categories since he played for Orlando. But he was effective against Miami, averaging nearly double digits in points and rebounds and made an uncharacteristic 7-of-8 free throws in Game 4 against the Heat.

The matchup of small forwards—Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince and Chicago’s Luol Deng—could be the pivotal factor in the series, but much of the focus will be on the centers even if one of them resists it.

“The series is not about me and Ben,” Webber said.

It won’t be about the Bad Boys-Bulls rivalry, either, but that didn’t stop Webber from reminiscing.

Detroit and Chicago met in four straight postseasons, with the Pistons winning the first three before Jordan and Co. broke through in 1991 en route to their first of six titles.

“I just remember the Pistons winning,” said Webber, a Detroit native. “And I remember the end, when Chicago finally beat the Pistons and how we walked off the court.”

Related Articles

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Saturday, May 5