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Over the Hill

Pistons plan adjustments without top player

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Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 09:30 PM

  Grant Hill Grant Hill's broken ankle will take at least eight weeks to heal. AP

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Forced to play without Grant Hill, the Detroit Pistons are trying to change their offense before resuming their NBA playoff series with the Miami Heat.

So far, the adjustments aren't going well.

"Chemistry doesn't change overnight," forward Jerome Williams said after practice Thursday. "But that's what it looks like is going to have to happen for us to win games.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We've played one way for 84 games. We can't change very much at this point."

Hill, the team's leading scorer, broke his ankle in Game 2 of the best-of-five first-round series Tuesday night. He'll need about eight weeks to heal.

But the Pistons, who haven't won a playoff series since 1991, don't have that kind of time. Miami leads the series 2-0 and can finish it off when the teams meet at The Palace on Saturday.

"You're always making adjustments in the playoffs, but this is a bigger adjustment than normal," said interim coach George Irvine. "Our whole offense went through Grant. Now, he's gone."

Michael Curry, a 6-foot-5 swingman who plays both forward and guard, will start in place of Hill. Jud Buechler and Loy Vaught also are likely to get more playing time.

"I'm not going to go out there and tell myself that I need to score as many points as Grant would have," Curry said. "I'm going to play the same offense I always play. If I get five shots, that's fine. If I get 10 or 15 shots, that's fine."

Curry probably won't get many shots. The main thrust of Detroit's offense now will fall to Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and Terry Mills.

"If Grant Hill is ailing ... you'll focus a lot of your defense on Laettner, on Stackhouse," said Heat coach Pat Riley. "Curry surprised some of our guys with his post-up moves. You never know who is going to step up."

Frankly, the Pistons aren't sure, either.

"I don't think we have a feeling of surrender," Williams said. "But in practice today, running plays, I could see guys were a little confused. What happens to confidence?

"I can't lie and say, 'Oh, yeah, we're going to do things differently.' Hey, this is the Miami Heat. Their team chemistry is fine. Our backs are against the wall."

Actually, Miami has been dealing with injuries, too. Heat guard Tim Hardaway missed the first two games with a sprained foot, yet Miami managed to win without him.

Rookie Anthony Carter, playing in place of Hardaway, scored 10 points in each game.

"Let me tell you what AC has what a lot of people don't -- heart," Miami center Alonzo Mourning said. "You can't teach that. The only thing he's lacking is experience."

Still, the biggest force for Miami has been the inspired play of Jamal Mashburn.

In Game 1, he scored a career playoff-high 29 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. In the second game, Mashburn again had 10 in the fourth quarter and finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

"Everyone forgets that we don't have Tim," Heat guard Dan Majerle said. "Our guys have stepped up and done a good job. Their guys will do the same.

"When someone goes down, you have to expect that someone will step up and play well."


 
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