MIAMI -- Only two days ago, the Miami Heat seemed relaxed and confident as they held a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
With that cushion gone, they simply seem angry.
Shaquille O'Neal wants the ball more, repeating his refrain from last season's playoffs. Dwyane Wade is growing increasingly frustrated with tactics the Detroit Pistons use against him defensively. Heat coach Pat Riley made little effort to hide his disappointment in the lack of energy and effort that doomed Miami in Game 2 Thursday.
All those tenets add another several levels of intrigue to tonight's pivotal third game of the series, with the Heat and Pistons knotted at a game apiece.
``They feel that they're the best team," Wade said. ``They feel like every time that they lose, it's because of them. We don't get any credit. We've got to go out and earn it. We don't deserve any, evidently, so we've got to go out and continue to earn our credit -- and that's by going out and winning this series."
Detroit took a 25-12 lead after the first quarter of Game 2 and pushed the margin to 18 points in the second half before hanging on for a 92-88 victory. The Heat scored 17 points in a 97-second span to get within 2 with 9.8 seconds left, a furious rally that ultimately failed.
Game 3 will mark the Pistons' eighth contest in 14 days, so coach Flip Saunders opted not to practice yesterday -- just as he did Wednesday in an effort to let his team bottle some energy for game time.
``It's always nice to get refreshed a little bit," Saunders said. ``More than anything else, the time off gives us the chance to be more mentally alert."
For as vaunted a defensive team as the Pistons are -- a well-deserved reputation, especially after their 64-win regular season -- they haven't been able to truly stop Wade and O'Neal in this series.
The Heat's two superstars shot 59 percent and averaged 46 points -- more than half the team's scoring -- in the first two games.
``I think we need to focus on getting it inside," O'Neal said after Game 2. ``We took way too many jump shots. We were just trying to make jump shots and that's not our game. We have to get inside and send it back out."
Wade said the Heat will happily try to comply with that request.
``You want to keep the big man happy," Wade said. ``And evidently, he wasn't. He wanted more touches and that'll be a focus going into the game [tonight]. "