As you'd expect, the Pistons are big in the national media today, and it's not pretty. Here's a quick run-down of some of the more notable articles:
Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated: Busting at the seams
Maybe the Pistons are out of sorts because they realize that they've lost their edge, that this time they won't be able to flip a switch and escape the jam they've created for themselves. Maybe it's just too much to expect a team to maintain the kind of all-for-one esprit de corps that they once had indefinitely. But it's sad to see them go out this way, exchanging looks of annoyance with each other when a pass goes astray, searching individually for someone to blame instead of searching collectively for a solution to their problems. They are the Pistons, after all, and we remember when they were so much bigger than that. If only they did.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: Identity crisis
No doubt the next era of the Pistons will become a joint venture between Saunders and his team president, as Dumars must not only share Saunders' vision going forward but also find a way to implement it.
But does that mean -- barring a comeback over the next week -- breaking up their starting five with a trade this summer? That's a question for Dumars to consider over the month to come, in consultation with Saunders. But Dumars' philosophy is renowned: Whether it's moving Jerry Stackhouse after his finest year or replacing Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown in spite of big successes, he will do whatever he thinks the Pistons need to improve. He won't make a move just to shake things up -- he might have to wait until next season to find the right acquisition -- but if he believes that this team has lost its killer instinct, then he won't let the malaise fester.
Scoop Jackson of ESPN's Page 2: The death of a 'do, and a dynasty
Throughout these playoffs the Detroit Pistons we've seen are not the Detroit Pistons. They're something else, some other team. A shell of what's actually inside.
No more playing better when their backs are against the wall, no more "wait until we get back to the Palace to ball," no more "we only play to the level of our competition," no more "all we have to do is take care of business at home," because as of right now -- win or lose this series against Miami -- the gig is up. The mystery and mystique is over. The invincibility is gone.
The Larry Brown factor that reeled them out of situations like this is no longer there to rescue them, to save them.
It's past Ben Wallace's free throw shooting percentage, or Sheed's scoring average, or the under-80 ppg they've been scoring as a team over the past nine games, or the fact that it doesn't seem like they're running any baseline plays for Rip to score off (zero points in the second half Monday night), or their lack of defensive intensity, or that they are often playing D with their hands (reaching like an AAU team) instead of their feet -- or their heads.
Or the fact that, as Mark Jackson said, "They messed up the identity of their basketball team."
It's past all of that.
Complex, it's a team in search of a soul lost somewhere in Cleveland. Simplified, it's the reality that the DPs are no longer the hungriest team in the NBA. And it shows. And without that hunger -- or the behavior of being hungry for 48 minutes at a time -- they have reduced themselves to what they used to reduce other teams to: a poor shooting team that has no idea how to make stops on the defensive end.
Why can't the Pistons score?
Bucher: Same reason their defense was mediocre the entire season: They don't play with any urgency. The transition points that made them so giddy during the regular season have dried up, as they do every postseason, and the Pistons aren't being efficient at all in their half-court sets. Time after time, 15 seconds come off the shot clock and the offense starts over from a standstill. Multiple possessions go by with the ball never leaving one side of the floor. Flip isn't an isolation offense-type coach, so I know this isn't by design.
Sheridan: They're not playing together on offense as they did during the first two-thirds of the season, Rasheed Wallace's ankle injury is severely limiting his offense, and when the Pistons find something that works -- such as Tayshaun Prince's scoring prowess in the first quarter of Game 4 -- they don't stick with it. We're already at Game 5, and they still seem to be trying to figure out the Heat. It's probably too late.
I'll be the first to admit that being down 1-3 is an extremely dangerous spot to be in, but in these playoffs alone we've seen two teams come back from such a deficit to force a Game 7: the Suns did it against the Lakers in the first round and the Spurs did it to the Mavericks in the second. The Spurs weren't able to win their Game 7 and advance like the Suns did, but it just goes to prove that 1-3 isn't a death sentence.
I'm somewhat surprised more people in the media haven't referenced the Suns and Spurs when talking about the Pistons, though I'm guessing that's in part the fault of the team airing its dirty laundry in the public. There is one thing I'm sure of, though: if the Pistons of old were fueled by the notion of being underdogs, well, they're back in that familiar role, starting tonight. Let's see what happens.