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Published: Wednesday, 6/15/2005

Free throws may be key for Pistons

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - In the first two games of the NBA Finals the Detroit Pistons attempted 20 fewer foul shots than the San Antonio Spurs.

Not that the lack of free throws was the primary cause for the Pistons dropping the first two games of the NBA Finals best-of-seven series, the Pistons approached Game 3 with the hope of spending a little more time at the foul line. The Pistons attempted 30 foul shots compared to 50 for the Spurs during the first two games that took place at the SBC Center in San ntonio.

"We haven't gotten into the bonus but one quarter and that was late," Detroit coach Larry Brown said. "One of the things we've got to figure out is a way to get to the free-throw line, which will maybe help us set up our defense and will maybe help us defend a little bit better.

"We've got to figure out a way to shoot a better percentage, get better distribution in terms of who is getting shots."

San Antonio actually attempted only one more foul shot than Detroit in Game 1. The Pistons sank 10 of 14 free throws while the Spurs made 12 of 15 foul shots on their way to an 84-69 victory. However, the Spurs knocked down 28 of 34 free throws compared to 10 of 16 for the Pistons on their way to a 97-76 victory.

Brown thinks the answer to their shortage of foul attempts could be remedied with better usage of their possessions. The Pistons actually attempted 82 shots compared to 62 for the Spurs in Game 2.

But many of the shots came from the perimeter and from the guard positions. Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton combined to make only 11 of 29 shot attempts.

"It's going to start with each possession and I think that's critical," he said.

Lakers, Jackson: The reuniting of Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers didn't go without notice yesterday evening at The Palace.

Brown, whose Pistons helped lead to the eventual breakup of the Lakers and Jackson following the Pistons knocking off the Lakers in the NBA Finals last season, was aware of Jackson's official return to the NBA coaching ranks.

However, Brown made it clear the news out of L.A. wouldn't have any effect on the outcome of Game 3 in this year's NBA Finals.

"I'm superstitious because if he [Jackson] had a press conference in Game 1 and we lost, I'm worried," Brown said.

"I'm happy the guy is back in the league. I think he's a great coach. I don't know how you can make a better choice than a guy who has won nine championships and done a lot for our game."

San Antonio coach Gregg Popopvich, whose team lost to Jackson and the Lakers in the playoffs last year, believes Jackson's return is a positive for the NBA.

"I think it's great," Popovich said. "The city of Los Angeles should obviously be thrilled and excited. He's a tremendous coach, so the players should be excited.

"He obviously wanted to do this, so he thinks it's going to work out for him and I hope he's correct. I hope it's great."

Arroyo's status: Pistons backup point guard Carlos Arroyo dressed for Game 3, but Brown admitted before the game his availability to play was uncertain due to an ankle injury suffered earlier in the series.

"I don't know, [but] he didn't have any swelling and he participated in a shootaround," Brown said. "We didn't do a lot, but Arnie Kander [Pistons strength coach] said he should be ready to go.

"This is an ankle that he's had some trouble with in the past, but he's a pretty tough kid, so hopefully we'll have him."

Arroyo didn't see any action during the first half which ended with the Spurs leading 42-41.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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