AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – Larry Brown will return to Detroit to coach at least one more game. His defending champion Pistons made sure of it.

Detroit ensured that the Eastern Conference finals will last at least six games, getting a big performance from Richard Hamilton on both ends of the court to defeat the Miami Heat 106-96 Tuesday night in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series.

Bouncing back from a 2-1 deficit just as they did in the second round against Indiana, the Pistons took the lead for good after Shaquille O’Neal got into foul trouble midway through the first quarter and knotted the series 2-2 heading into Game 5 on Thursday night in Miami.

Game 6 will be Saturday on Detroit’s court in what could be Brown’s last home game as coach of the Pistons.

The 64-year-old Brown has met with the Cleveland Cavaliers about becoming their president of basketball operations, though he continued to insist Tuesday that he would like to continue coaching if his health allows it.

The performance was the Pistons’ most dominant of the series. Detroit did not have a single turnover in the first half, never let Dwyane Wade get into a scoring groove – thanks in large part to Hamilton’s defense – and was never seriously challenged in the fourth quarter.

Hamilton scored 28 points, Rasheed Wallace added 20, Chauncey Billups had 17 and the Pistons finished with six turnovers. The lopsided result even allowed little-used forward Darko Milicic to see his first playing time of the series – the final 93 seconds.

O’Neal, limited by foul trouble to 8 minutes in the first half, had 12 points and five rebounds. Wade had 28 points on 10-for-22 shooting as Brown made a switch and used Hamilton instead of Tayshaun Prince as the primary defender on the Heat’s second-year guard.

Detroit also handed Miami its first road loss of the postseason. The Heat had been 5-0 against New Jersey, Washington and the Pistons.

O’Neal picked up his second foul just 6:14 into the first quarter with the score 11-11, and the Heat were behind 32-25 when he returned 21/2 minutes into the second quarter.

O’Neal’s third foul came just over 2 minutes later when he was called for bumping Hamilton on a drive. O’Neal protested that he had his arms straight up, then frowned at the referee who made the call, Jack Nies, as he exited for the rest of the half.

Miami had a 13-3 run to pull to 46-42, but things went bad for the Heat after O’Neal’s backup, Alonzo Mourning, drew his third foul with 3:30 left. Hamilton scored six points and Billups had four as Detroit closed the half with a 14-4 run for a 58-44 lead.

O’Neal’s fourth foul came with 3:05 left in the third quarter after Miami had managed to pull to 70-65, and the Heat entered the fourth quarter trailing 79-69.

A 3-pointer by Damon Jones pulled the Heat to 84-75 with 7:51 left, but Prince hit a short jump-hook to start a 9-1 run – ending with a fast-break dunk by Antonio McDyess – that made it 93-76.

Earlier Tuesday, Brown was unusually defensive and testy in reacting to a report on that he already had agreed to become president of the Cavaliers.

“Why should I worry about Plan B when I’m worried about being healthy?” Brown said. “Why should I ever be thinking about that? I want to coach here. I want to coach. This is what I’ve done my whole life. I love this team.”

Brown has three years remaining on a five-year contract, but the Pistons have made it clear they would not stand in Brown’s way if he wants to secure a position with another club in case his health prevents him from coaching.

“All my players ever ask is how I’m feeling,” Brown said. “They know I want to coach, that’s what I do. Could you imagine me not coaching?”

Notes: The 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers were the only team in NBA history to go unbeaten on the road in the postseason (8-0). … Detroit avoided falling behind 3-1, a deficit only seven of 159 teams have recovered from in postseason history. … Commissioner David Stern attended the game and got a first-hand feel for how cramped the quarters can be inside The Palace of Auburn Hills when he had to duck down and squeeze behind a cameraman from The Sunshine Network who was shooting a pre-game interview with Miami F Rasual Butler in the hallway outside the Heat’s locker room. He sat nine rows up at center court, flanked by security guards.

AP-ES-05-31-05 2307EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.