The Pistons had their five-game playoff winning streak snapped, but still hold a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 will be played in Philadelphia Sunday night.
Playing in his first postseason, Thomas is giving the smallish 76ers a big boost. He had 15 points and 19 rebounds in Thursday's overtime loss and followed with another double-double -- in the first half.
"They came out a little dead tonight and they weren't really into the game," Thomas said. "That was great for us because we just took our game to another level."
Despite the presence of Wallace, the NBA's leading rebounder, the Pistons are one of the NBA's worst rebounding teams. That showed in the first half, when they were beaten on the boards, 30-13.
"We knew this series was going to be about rebounding for us and for them," Pistons Coach Rick Carlisle said. "They got off to a great start on the boards."
The 6-8 Thomas set the pace with his energy and his teammates followed. Philadelphia had 12 offensive rebounds while Detroit managed just seven defensive boards. That led to 21 second-chance points for the 76ers, who opened a 48-37 halftime lead.
"We came out real aggressive in the first half as far as rebounding and playing defense," Thomas said. "We were trying to set the tempo for the game. Myself, I was ready to go. I felt like we needed a win bad. If somebody is playing hard on this team, everybody else will follow. We just came out, picked it up and got it going in the first quarter."
"At halftime, they had nearly half their points on second shots," Carlisle said. "That's not a good sign for us, so we're going to have to match their level of aggression on the boards."
Thomas may have been too energetic. With just under four minutes left in the third quarter, he suffered a strained right quadriceps trying to track down a rebound. He limped to the locker room and did not return.
By that time, the 76ers had a 64-44 lead. They maintained a double-digit lead thereafter as Allen Iverson and Keith Van Horn paced the offense.
While Thomas was a terror, Wallace appeared waylaid. He had just two defensive boards and six total, the first time in 20 career playoff games he did not reach double figures in rebounds.
"We didn't help Ben on the boards at all tonight," Pistons swingman Tayshaun Prince said. "He was down there fighting, fighting, fighting and we didn't help him at all."
Iverson had 25 points and 11 assists and Van Horn broke out of a slump with 17 points for the 76ers, who held a 48-30 advantage on the backboards and had 27 second-chance points.
"That's what I'm trying to concentrate on," Thomas said. "If I go to the boards and get an offensive rebound, then I'm going to get some put-backs."
Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and Game 2 hero Prince added 17 for the Pistons, who made 10 of 21 three-pointers but shot just 36 percent overall.
With Game 4 24 hours away, health is an issue for both teams. Pistons guard Chauncey Billups sat out his second straight game with a sprained ankle and is questionable for Sunday's game. In addition to Thomas, Derrick Coleman and Eric Snow went to the locker room early for treatment of nagging injuries.
"I'm a little nervous about that, with Kenny's situation and Eric's situation," Philadelphia Coach Larry Brown said. "Some guys, I'm not concerned with. I hope we don't party."
"It's a nagging bruise I had earlier in the season," Thomas said. "It was the same thing when I got hit (tonight). If I get hit again, it might get irritated. It's nothing serious. I'll be all right for tomorrow."