At the beginning of the season, the Pistons quote machine was churning out repeated statements like the following from Chauncey, et al:
"We are working on getting home-court advantage. That is our regular-season goal. We all know if we had it last year, we would be starting this season as two-time defending champions."
For 40-something games it was generally understood that while the 70-win talk was nice, the Pistons main focus was to continue their regular season dominance and capture the home-court throughout this year's playoffs. And at 37-5, Piston players weren't exactly going out on a limb when freely speaking of the possibility.
But as 37-5 became 48-11, and in the face of their most heated adversity of the season, that goal of homecourt advantage is suddenly in doubt...and not-so-coincidentally much less important/talked-about. Compare this quote from Flip in today's Freep to Chauncey's early-season quote:
The Pistons lost last year in the Finals "because (Robert) Horry hit a 28-foot shot in their building," Saunders said. "I've always believed that no matter what, you're going to have to win games on the road. And the way the Finals (format is) 2-3-2, I feel that's a big equalizer."
"I think the amazing thing is after 57 games, they've got the best records they've ever had in the history of the league," Saunders said. "So we just have to worry about us and do what we do, and I'm sure they're saying the same thing."
Whoa. So what was deemed by the players as a regular season goal is now simply a minor bonus? Are the Boys in Blue feeling the pressure of pursuit? Have they lost their mid-season swagger? Is this damage control?
Now before you fly off the handle over Flip's comments,And, yes, I am aware that I should be directing this statement towards myself, since I am the one prone to pessimistic overreaction. (For proof, search the archives for "Lindsey Hunter"...actually, that's a bad example. Lindsey deserves every bit of criticism thrown his way--did you see Robert-freakin'-Swift--the "so-white-he's clear" 7-footer for the Sonics--steal the ball away from Lindsey on the fast break? Robert Swift? Fast break? Lindsey? But I digress... know that Flip has probably sensed a tightening of the collar in his team recently due to a combination of fatigue and the dogged pursuit from the Spurs and Mavs. The odds are that he is just trying to alleviate some of the pressure during this hectic stretch to allow the team a return to playing Dee-troit basketball (or at least grab a damn rebound or two).
The Pistons would be silly not to put a premium on home court advantage. We all know that Chauncey's statement about last year's finals is true: given how well the Pistons played the Spurs at the Palace, it is doubtful that they would have fallen flat in front of the home fans in Game 7. Coulda, woulda, shoulda--that's why they need to take care of business now.
Looking ahead (purposefully)
This recent '8 games in 12 days' stretch was going to be difficult regardless of how the team was playing up to this point. That they finished the stretch 6-2 will allow a final run towards home-court advantage. Barring a sudden unexpected collapse by Detroit or Dallas and San Antonio, the Pistons' home-court chances will be decided during the week of March 22-29. During that 8-day stretch, the Pistons play Miami (home), Indiana (away), New Jersey (home), Dallas (home), and Philly (away).(Prior to that murderous stretch, the Pistons have the Bulls, 'Zards, Bobcats, Raps, Knicks, Bobcats, and Hawks--not exactly daunting.)