|Prince's `D' helps Detroit against Bulls' Deng|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 May 2007 10:24|
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -Tayshaun Prince's duel with Luol Deng might be the key matchup in the Detroit Pistons-Chicago Bulls series.|
Two days before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, Prince already was annoyed when asked about it.
``Everybody's got Deng questions,'' Prince bristled after practice Thursday. ``I guess I've got to play defense.''
That shouldn't be a problem.
Deng averaged 26.3 points in the first-round sweep of the defending champion Miami Heat, but Prince has slowed down stars such as Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in the playoffs.
``He's always matched up well against different dudes at the `3,''' teammate Rasheed Wallace said. ``I'm not worried because I know what Tay can do.''
The 6-foot-9, 215-pound Prince uses his long arms, savvy instincts and experience to make scorers struggle.
``He's long, athletic, smart,'' Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. ``Even though he's thin, he's stronger than people give him credit for.''
Prince earned a spot earlier this week on the NBA's All-Defensive second team for the third straight year.
``It's tough for me to make first team because I'm not in a situation where I get a lot of steals or blocks,'' he said. ``I just play straight-up defense. The guys who are on the first team are obviously in a situation where they get steals and blocks.''
Prince had 55 blocks and 51 steals, playing all 82 games for the third season in a row and providing further proof that statistics can be misleading. Some numbers, however, from the four-game, regular-season series appear to show the Prince-Deng matchup could help determine who advances to the conference finals.
Deng scored 30, 22 and 16 in Chicago's three wins and in two of those games, Prince was limited to eight or fewer points.
``That's a key matchup for them and it's going to be a key matchup for us,'' Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. ``(Prince is) one of those guys that thrives on the pressure situation. He never gets too excited.''
Prince displays a calm demeanor regardless of the score or what's at stake, and seems unflappable in pressure-packed situations.
That was true even as a rookie in the first round of the 2003 playoffs, when he dramatically went from the bench to the court. After playing Prince sparingly in 42 regular-season games, then-coach Rick Carlisle gave him a chance to defend McGrady and the move helped Detroit rally from a 3-1 deficit.
In the next round, he frustrated Iverson.
Pistons players, coaches and front-office officials have said the franchise wouldn't have won its third title in 2004 without Prince. He made one of the most spectacular defensive plays in NBA playoff history late in Game 2 of the conference finals against Indiana. Trailing Reggie Miller by several steps, Prince sprinted from midcourt and perfectly timed a block that lifted Detroit to a series-evening victory.
In the finals, Prince made Bryant look ordinary.
Prince added to his legacy last year by slowing James at times in the second round, helping Detroit advance to the conference finals for the fourth straight year.
To make it five in a row, he will likely have to add Deng to his list of stymied standouts.
Regardless of the outcome, Deng and the Bulls will have to deal with Prince for years to come because he is in the first year of a five-year contract worth about $48 million.
``Tayshaun is smart, unselfish and only cares about winning,'' Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said. ``You win with character guys and Tayshaun is definitely a character guy.''
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