INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Ben Wallace could not seal the game from the free throw line, so he went to what he does best—playing great defense—to make up for it.
Wallace, the reigning NBA defensive player of the year, was glad to have made the final play, but said the Pistons should have been further ahead at that point.
“It was a tough play,” he said. “We were able to get the block and get the win, but it never should have came down to that. We played terrible down the stretch. We had control of the game, we let it slip away. It was just one of those nights. We were fortunate to come out of here with a win.”
Wallace was 1-for-8 from the foul line in the second half. The one he made came with 4.6 seconds left, and it forced the Pacers to try a 3-pointer to tie.
“After throwing eight up there, you’re bound to hit one,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Detroit led 74-70 and had possession in the final minute, but Indiana’s Jamaal Tinsley stole the ball from Chauncey Billups with the shot clock winding down, and Billups fouled him. Tinsley made both free throws with 28 seconds left to cut Detroit’s lead to 74-72.
On the ensuing possession, Billups put up a jumper and Wallace was fouled on the rebound with 4.6 seconds left. Wallace made only the second free throw to extend Detroit’s lead to 75-72.
Granger then pump-faked before Wallace smothered his 3-point try from the wing at the buzzer. He was the third option on Indiana’s final play.
“I just ran up to get it because we had five seconds left and nobody was getting open,” he said. “I just ran up to try to bail Jamaal out. Obviously it wasn’t for me. It was for Peja (Stojakovic) first and probably Jack (Stephen Jackson) secondary.
“He (Wallace) knew we needed a three. He knew I wasn’t going to drive by him because we needed a three. It was probably an easy defensive play for him.”
Indiana forward Jermaine O’Neal struggled in his second game back after sitting out for two months with a torn left groin. He finished with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting and had seven rebounds.
“I’m still very raw,” he said. “It hurts my ability to make plays. I’ve got to find a rhythm. To get to our ultimate goal, I must pick up my play.”
Detroit led 62-51 in the fourth quarter before Indiana went on a 10-5 spurt that included six points from Stojakovic that got the Pacers back into striking range.
Harrison had 10 points in the first quarter to help the Pacers take a 20-15 lead. Indiana led 26-19 before Detroit went on a 17-1 run, sparked by two 3-pointers from Lindsey Hunter, to take a 36-27 lead. The Pistons led 42-36 at halftime.
Indiana closed the gap to 46-44 early in the third quarter, but the Pistons responded with an 11-2 run to take a 57-46 lead. Detroit led 60-49 at the end of the period.
Detroit’s bench outscored Indiana’s 28-24. McDyess led the reserves with 11 points, Hunter scored eight points and Carlos Delfino added seven.
“The bench was big, no doubt about it,” Billups said. “All those guys played great tonight. We’re going to need that from them in the playoffs.”
Indiana guard Fred Jones sat out with a torn ligament in his left thumb. He has been the team’s top scorer off the bench for most of the season. … Detroit started the same lineup for the 68th consecutive game. … McDyess led the Pistons with eight rebounds. It was just the seventh time this season someone without the last name Wallace has led the Pistons in rebounding. … Jackson heaved a 45-foot shot with seven-seconds left in the first half, thinking time was running out. The ball bounced off the top of the backboard and out of bounds for a turnover.