INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Detroit Pistons acquired Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline, many thought the balance of power had shifted in the East.
That theory was based on Wallace's showing up in the clutch for the Pistons, which did not happen in Detroit's 78-74 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.
Wallace was never a factor against the Pacers, scoring just four points on 1-for-7 shooting. Expected to be huge key on the boards and at the defensive end, Wallace grabbed just seven rebounds and was dominated by Jermaine O'Neal on defense.
The typically volatile Wallace didn't say much after the game. But what he did say no doubt will make headlines.
"I'm guaranteeing Game 2. That's the bottom line and that's all I'm saying. They will not win Game 2 and you heard that from me," Wallace said. "Put it front page, back page, middle of the page. They will not win Game 2."
This coming from a player who watched O'Neal score 21 points and grab 14 rebounds, many of which came over Wallace.
Wallace ended a dismal showing with an even worse shot. With the Pistons trailing 77-74 and less than 10 seconds remaining, he had the ball in the corner and the chance to tie the game.
His shot wasn't even close. Reggie Miller corralled the airball and hit one of two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to seal the win.
It was a surprising performance from a player who helped galvanize the Pistons after arriving in February. With Rasheed and Ben Wallace prowling the low post, the Pistons finished the season 20-6 to get the second-best record in the East.
Detroit seemed to affirm the theory that they were the team to beat with a convincing 79-61 win over the Pacers in their first game with the Wallaces manning the front line.
But the Pacers played that game without Jamaal Tinsley, and O'Neal and Ron Artest struggled mightily in what was essentially a meaningless game for them.
On Friday, O'Neal assured that it would be a different story in Game 1 because the Pacers would have their full complement of players ready to go.
He was right.
Artest had 17 points and seven rebounds and Tinsley added 13 points, five assists and four steals.
Rasheed Wallace spent much of the game sparring with the officials and Tinsley and never seemed to get in a rhythm at either end of the floor. He was playing with a sore foot that he has battled throughout the playoffs.
"You can see he's got no lift," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "He hasn't been able to practice in a month. They played great defensively against him."
He let Ben Wallace do most of the dirty work underneath, and that was almost enough. Big Ben had 11 points and 22 rebounds to help keep the Pistons in the game.
But Rasheed Wallace's poor showing, coupled with yet another clutch 3-pointer by Miller with 31.7 seconds to play, the Pistons fell behind 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.
The Pacers were only too happy with their success against Rasheed in Game 1, but they said they were sure he'd play better in Game 2 on Monday.
"Rasheed is one of the toughest matchups in all of basketball," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "There aren't many seven-footers who can do what he can do. He was a guy we talked a lot about. I know he's going to bounce back on Monday night."
If that doesn't happen, it could be a short series for the Pistons.
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