Pistons proving impossible to overlook

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.

(AP) – With one more win, the Detroit Pistons will be impossible to ignore any longer.

They'll be NBA champions, and even the Los Angeles Lakers will be forced to quit thinking about themselves long enough to appreciate one of the most amazing finals performances in league history.

"We don't care about respect from them, respect from the media, respect from the world," Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace said Monday.

"We only care about the dogs in our room and the fans in this building.

The rest of y'all can have each other."

Though the Pistons have beaten the Lakers in almost every aspect of every minute of every game while taking a 3-1 lead, this series has been all about L.A.

About the infighting, the strategic blunders, the Malone-and-Payton sob stories, the colorful derailment of a burgeoning dynasty.

Detroit has stuck to the workaday, blue-collar image cultivated for its star-free roster.

Except for an occasional ankle-breaking crossover dribble by Chauncey Billups, there's been nothing spectacular about the Pistons' game.

But it has produced three decisive victories over the star-studded, heavily favored Lakers.

"I sense this team, and what they bring, would be a testimonial of how special our league is, because I think this team tries to play the right way and respects the game and respects one another," said Pistons coach Larry Brown, who's tantalizingly close to his first title after 21 seasons with seven NBA teams.

After seizing control of the series with consecutive home victories, the Pistons can clinch the third title in franchise history with a win in Game 5 tonight.

The first two Detroit champions, in 1989 and 1990, both finished their title runs on the road, depriving the fans at The Palace of a firsthand celebration.

To do it, the Pistons must become the first team to win all three home games in the middle of a 2-3-2 series since the NBA moved to the format in 1985.

But the Lakers' task is even more daunting: No team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the finals.

"We have every intention of winning the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

"We don't care what the records are about teams that are in this situation in the past.

"We believe that we can turn this thing around."