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May 24, 2007

Flip Saunders


Q. Could you just talk a little bit about Rasheed Wallace down the stretch not only scoring but also his defense.
COACH SAUNDERS: Well, Sheed has been, as I said since we started the playoffs, he's been extremely locked in, extremely motivated, and down the stretch he wanted the ball, in a lot of situations to make plays. He made some big plays in the fourth quarter.
I thought both teams, that was definitely an Eastern Conference grind-it-out game, where both teams were hitting each other, battling. I thought it was like Ground Hog Day. I thought it was almost the same game as before and the scoring ends up the same and I thought how the teams played, it was just a matter of who was going to make a few plays down the stretch.
He made a great shot on the baseline. I thought Varejao defended well, he just made a great shot.

Q. How did you see the last play with LeBron driving the basket?
COACH SAUNDERS: I mean, I'd have to take another look. I think that -- I thought Rip did a pretty good job getting in front. A lot of times when you get in a situation and you drive and you turn your back, sometimes even the refs can't see if there's any contact or not, so I don't know. But I thought Rip did as good a job as he did trying to keep him in front of him, trying to contest, and there were ten guys in there fighting for that last play, and it was tipping -- I thought two of their tips were right there to go in, but they didn't squeeze in there.
You know, LeBron -- they came back. They went with a small line-up. They had a smaller line-up in there with Donyell, where they could spread the floor and he made a good play, it just didn't go in.

Q. How long do you feel it'll be up two games to none especially with a questionable call to end this game?
COACH SAUNDERS: Well, you're fortunate you're up because I thought they played well. They took control of the game as far as in the first half and got off to a great lead. But we have done two things: We've really defended the second half of both games, and tonight we gave up 13 and 13 in the third and fourth quarter and we put the onus on them to try to make plays.
But I thought both teams played hard, and I think the whole series is going to be like this. I don't think anyone is going to run away from either team. Right now I think the first team to 80 is going to win because no one really seems to be able to get there right now.

Q. Could you talk about Maxiell in the first half. He seemed to give you that spark that you needed.
COACH SAUNDERS: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is that I think that you saw the success that Varejao has had against us with us giving a lot of help off a big man to try to shade LeBron as much as we can. You know, them trying to shade Chauncey gave Maxie freedom at the rim a few times, and that's basically what he did, he played hard, got to open spots, ran the floor well and made good plays. You've just got to get him to make free throws so he can stay on the floor more in the fourth quarter.

Q. You knew in the last few plays that they were trying to get LeBron shots. Can you break down how you guys defended him when he had the kick-out to Sasha and also when he went out to the basket himself.
COACH SAUNDERS: We wanted to try to take him away one way and force him another way if we can. We tried to have a lot of bodies and eyes looking at him, and try to have him make a play where he had to make a play over somebody and not make a play to the rim with no one in between him. That's why we made a decision to go with Rip a little quicker laterally because LeBron is so strong, if he gets even with you it's like him being ahead and he can use his body and keep on going and create space to him. So we needed to create space as much as we could.

Q. You guys were on 18 to 2 runs at the start of the third quarter on the last two games, what do you attribute that to? Is it battle-tested, hardwood? What is it?
COACH SAUNDERS: Like I said, Ground Hog Day, same game, both. They played well and they kicked our butts the first half. I think one thing this team does have, our guys have pride. They take pride in the fact of our defense. They scored over 50 on us in the first half, and so I think our players were disappointed as far as how we played. And we locked down to try to get control back of the game as quick as we could in the third quarter.

Q. You guys got off pretty lucky considering how many point blank shots you missed and you were still able to come off with a win.
COACH SAUNDERS: I'm sure we feel lucky and they feel unlucky because both teams had opportunities to win. It's one of those games, you know, the ball bounces funny ways, and that's why what you have to do is you want to put yourself in a position to have an opportunity to win. But they've -- like I said, they've played extremely well both games, and we know Sunday is going to be a heck of a game. We know our players -- we seem to play better on the road. I think we play a little bit looser, but we know it's going to be a good challenge for us going in there and they'll be ready to play.

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