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NBA PLAYOFFS: EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS : Pistons Fear Following Lakers’ Footsteps

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The problem with the Bad Boys lately has been that they really are. Bad, that is.

It is not merely that the Detroit Pistons have lost their last two games against the Chicago Bulls going into tonight’s Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It’s how they lost.

With Michael Jordan handling the ball a lot Saturday, they were unable to adjust.

The Pistons had 22 turnovers Monday, seven by Joe Dumars. In the last two games, the Pistons have blown a 14-point second-quarter lead, fallen behind by 19 in the other and both times given up at least 100 points after having surrendered 100 or more only three times in their previous 27 games.

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Tuesday, back in more settled surroundings, they reacted in kind. Few players were talking after practice, including the usually outspoken John Salley. Bill Laimbeer would discuss bass fishing only.

And as some have suggested that the Lakers, the league’s winningest team, stumbled against the Phoenix Suns because regular-season success wore them out for the playoffs, Detroit Coach Chuck Daly said the Pistons had things too easy the first 82 games. Nothing prepared them to dig in now that they need to.

“I’ve said it all season, we have had it too easy,” Daly said.

“Now we’ll see how we respond. They (the Bulls) want what we have. We have to decide how bad we want that title right now.

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“Our club has not been backed up against the wall all year. . . . I felt it necessary only one time to talk to our club, that was after our loss at home to the Lakers in the second half (of the season). We haven’t faced that situation almost all year.”

The Pistons went 25-1 during one stretch after the Laker defeat. A similar response would be in order now.

“You’re supposed to win at home,” Piston guard Isiah Thomas said after scoring 26 points in the Game 4 loss.

“They did their job. Now we’re going back to Detroit.”

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The Pistons are 48-6 at home this season, 7-0 in the playoffs, and haven’t lost at the Palace since a fight-marred game March 19 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Such success is typical of this postseason, but a contrast to 1988-89.

Home teams are 49-13 in these playoffs (79%); the final four teams are 27-1 at home. No visitor has won in 12 games, since Phoenix eliminated the Lakers May 15 at the Forum.

“Maturity and confidence--that has a lot to do with it,” Chicago’s John Paxson said. “But so does where you are playing.”

Last season, the home teams had a 34-28 (54.8%) postseason mark.

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Notes

Michael Jordan has seven of the top 12 single-game scoring performances in the playoffs, topped by 49 points against the Philadelphia 76ers May 11. Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks has the fourth and seventh best, Laker Magic Johnson has eighth and ninth, and Hersey Hawkins of Philadelphia is 11th.

Detroit’s Dennis Rodman got 20 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end, and 20 points in Game 4 despite playing most of the time with a badly jammed left ankle that swelled so badly afterward that he could barely squeeze on his shoe. The rebound total was one short of his career best.

The Bulls averaged 85 points in the two games here, 107.5 in the two victories at home.

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