NBA playoff matchup

May 22, 2004|By Milton Kent

Eastern Conference finals

No. 1 Indiana (61-21) vs. No. 3 Detroit (54-28)

Season series: Indiana, 3-1

How they got here: Indiana beat Boston, 4-0, in the opening round, then beat Miami, 4-2, in the conference semifinals. Detroit beat Milwaukee, 4-1, in the opening round, then beat New Jersey, 4-3, in the conference semifinals.

Pacers update: Indiana advances to the conference championship for the first time in four years, but for the sixth time in 11 seasons. ... Jermaine O'Neal suffered an eye injury in Game 6 against Miami and might wear protective goggles in this series. Fred Jones missed games 5 and 6 with a strained left shoulder, and Jamaal Tinsley has been battling an ankle sprain.

Pistons update: Detroit advances to the conference finals for the second straight season and the seventh time in franchise history. ... Chauncey Billups has been hampered by back spasms, and Rasheed Wallace has a sore left heel. ... The Pistons held New Jersey to 39.4 percent shooting from the field.

Prediction: Don't expect a lot of scoring in this series, which matches two of the top three defenses in the NBA. The teams met only once after Detroit obtained Rasheed Wallace in February, and the Pistons have been much better since. If Rasheed Wallace can guard O'Neal straight up, then Ben Wallace can roam the baseline and perimeter and wreak havoc on the Indiana backcourt. Meanwhile, look for the Detroit backcourt to give the Pacers problems. This should be a great series, but the Pistons have more quality depth. Detroit in six.

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