AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Unless you coach or play for the Pistons, the sight of Rasheed Wallace evokes anything but warm, fuzzy feelings.
Temperamental. Menacing. Petulant. Mercurial. Enigmatic. Troublesome. Those words usually characterize Wallace. But most worrisome for the Spurs heading into Game 5 last night at The Palace of Auburn Hills may have been the way Wallace described himself. The power forward capable of changing the complexion of the game with his play on both ends of the floor figured he was due for a big performance.
''It's probably coming," said Wallace. ''I'm not putting myself down or saving anything. It's coming. I've had some terrible games, some single-digit games. But in most of them, we got the win."
Last night, he didn't deliver the big game he wanted, and this time the Pistons failed to get the win, losing, 96-95, in overtime. Wallace finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
When Detroit earned its first Finals victory in Game 3, Wallace finished with 8 points and seven rebounds. In Game 4, he was slightly more productive and closer to his playoff averages with 14 points and eight rebounds. Still, the Pistons expect more, largely because they know there would be no title to defend without Wallace.
''He's special," said Detroit coach Larry Brown. ''You know, he's a poor sport. That's all. When he thinks something is not right, he reacts and sometimes acts silly, but it doesn't take away from who he is in my mind. He's a great player, but a better guy. I've spoken to other coaches that have been with him and they all say the very same thing I'm saying. When I took the job, [owner] Mr. [Bill] Davidson told me he cares about having good people involved in the organization, and when we brought up Rasheed's name, he didn't back down from it. I think there's no way we win the championship last year and get here this year without him."
Ginobili rested, ready
One of many ongoing debates at the Finals concerned the two days off between Games 4 and 5. Would they help the Pistons, who grabbed the momentum with two straight wins at home? Or would they help the Spurs regroup? With some nagging soreness from his left thigh bruise, Manu Ginobili believed a couple of days' rest would help him.
''About the two days off, it helps," said Ginobili, who nevertheless struggled last night, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting. ''I played pretty comfortable in Game 4. It doesn't hurt me so much. Game 3 [when I hurt the thigh] was worse. So my thigh is getting better doing treatments and it's not going to be a problem for Game 5 at all."
They don't rate
Even as the television ratings for the Finals have declined dramatically, it should come as no surprise that the players don't care about the drop. ''I don't work in television, just on television," said the Spurs' Brent Barry. ''As a player, I don't really give a rat's [expletive] who's watching. I know my family's watching. I know my friends are watching. My teammates are playing and we're trying to win the championship. Whether or not it's a big hit or outdoing 'The Apprentice,' I could care less." . . . Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo is, once again, being mentioned for head coaching vacancies around the league. Openings remain in New York, Portland, and possibly Detroit. Whether he leaves San Antonio or not, Carlesimo will be a happily employed man. ''Whatever happens, happens," said Carlesimo. ''I'm in the mix a little bit more than I have been in a long time and that's fine. The best thing I have going for me is the job that I have. I think the job [Spurs assistant] is better than some of the head jobs in the league for me."