AUBURN HILLS, Mich.
(AP) – Early in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Rasheed Wallace displayed his usual symphony of emotions – flinging his headband deep into the stands, drawing a technical foul for a shoving match, shouting expletives in every direction.
But in the final minutes, one of the NBA's most volatile players had the cool of a champion.
While the Detroit forward made shot after shot, his eyes and arms and mouth never once betrayed him.
Perhaps Wallace is growing up along with the Pistons.
With one more win, he'll have a shiny new ring to go with his new outlook.
Wallace had playoff highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds, leading the Pistons to an 88-80 victory and a 3-1 series lead over the squabbling, scuffling Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
"It was just my night," Wallace said.
"My shot was falling a little bit, so hey, I've got to take that."
Chauncey Billups scored 23 points for the Pistons, who are one win away from a shocking title that will level the NBA's tilt to the left.
The Western Conference powers have dominated the finals and public opinion for a half-decade, but Detroit's choking defense and cohesive offense is too much for the best of the West.
Game 5 is Tuesday night, when the Pistons could clinch their first title in 14 years with their third straight victory.
"I've never been here, so I don't really know what it tastes like," said center Ben Wallace, who had eight points and 13 rebounds.
"I've got my imagination going, though.
We just need to find a way to win one more game, and we can all realize our childhood dreams."
After Detroit's superb performance so far in the finals, it's difficult to remember this series was thought to be a mismatch in Los Angeles' favor.
The Pistons struggled offensively in every previous playoff series, and they seemed to match up poorly with the Lakers and their surging superstar duo.
Shaquille O'Neal was outstanding in Game 4, scoring 13 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter while grabbing 20 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant shot poorly before coming on late, scoring eight of his 20 points in the fourth.
But O'Neal and Bryant were no match for Detroit's depth – and Rasheed Wallace had the best game of his first postseason with the Pistons, who acquired him in March for just such an energy boost.
Wallace was overdue for some sort of explosion, either from his temper or his fluid inside-out game.
He had just 28 points in the first three games, battling constant early foul trouble – but he traded big shots with Billups in the fourth quarter as the Pistons calmly maintained their lead.