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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2005

Pistons have it all; Sixers have Iverson

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Detroit Pistons are tough as week-old sirloin, allergic to selfishness and compete with a fighter's heart.

Other than that, the Philadelphia 76ers don't have anything to worry about.

All kidding aside, coach Larry Brown's Pistons drink the Kool-Aid. They believe the hype.

They'd rather play basketball "the right way" than land in Brown's doghouse.

Last night in Game 2 of their NBA first-round playoff series, the Pistons continued pounding on the 76ers. Brown threw the meat of his roster at Philadelphia, wave after wave of team-first bruisers, rebounders, defenders, scorers and passers trying to deliver the knockout punch in this series.

The Pistons pummeled Philadelphia into the floorboards, bullying Allen Iverson, Chris Webber and Co. in a satisfying 99-84 win at the Palace.

If the Pistons duplicate the physical and mental toughness they displayed in taking a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series, closing out Philadelphia won't be a problem.

Detroit executed an intelligent game plan last night. The Pistons didn't force the perimeter game or any unnecessary penetration. They ran their offense and took good shots.

No player attempted more than 13 shots as the Pistons, who displayed outstanding patience and balanced scoring, placed five players in double figures. Richard Hamilton scored a game-high 23 points and Chauncey Billups added 20.

"When you have a stat sheet like that, that shows you why they've been successful," Brown said. "There's no agenda. They take what's given."

The Pistons weren't looking ahead to the next series, although Philadelphia has yet to give them a competitive game.

You got the impression last night that if Iverson, who launched 24 shots to score 19 points, could take every shot, grab every rebound and score every point, he would.

It's a Catch-22 situation with Iverson. He carries Philadelphia's scoring load every game. He'd rather take every big shot than trust teammates, some of whom have the ability to score but still haven't gained Iverson's confidence.

Iverson shot 2-of-11 in the second quarter, attempting nearly half of Philadelphia's field goals during a key stretch of the game when the Pistons went from three down (23-20) to up by six (42-36) at intermission.

Iverson and 3-point specialist Kyle Korver launched enough airballs to fill the Goodyear blimp.

To his credit, Iverson kept firing. Meanwhile, Korver, who's a dead ringer for actor Ashton Kutcher, went into an offensive shell because he couldn't get his shot off against Detroit's Tayshaun Prince.

That leaves Webber, the former University of Michigan star and Philadelphia's second-best player. But Webber, who still hasn't recovered fully from a knee injury he suffered two seasons ago, isn't nearly as tough as Iverson, whom he outweighs by 80 pounds.

Webber tries to act tough, but for all his talent, he's not a leader. He plays at a high level when things are going well for his team, but, playing before hostile fans in his hometown, he deferred to Iverson.

Conversely, with the Pistons, you know exactly what you're going to get. The defending NBA champions are poised for an encore.



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