The Pistons had the swagger. They led by as many as 11 and were playing as well as they have been in the past four games. It even seemed like they were getting the calls while Brad Miller was doing his best 'Sheed meltdown impression. The Pistons looked destined to keep control as anytime Chicago pulled closer, Detroit would answer.
Then the last four minutes of the fourth quarter happened. After a Rasheed Wallace make that put the Pistons up four, 87-83, Detroit went on to miss their final ten field goals, miss two free throws, and commit two turnovers. This game was in the bag and the Pistons flat out tanked. It was almost unbearable to watch.
What makes it a little more disheartening is that during those final four minutes, Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon scored all eight of the Bulls final points. Rose finished with 24 points and 9 assists while Gordon finished with 19 points and what proved to be the game winning bucket. Chicago shot 46% as a team.
The Pistons were shooting over 45% before finishing 0-10, dropping their shooting percentage to 40 for the game. Richard Hamilton shot 10-19 and led the Pistons attack with 25 points. 'Sheed shot just 5-14 and finished with 11 points, but he hit a couple big shots throughout the game when the Bulls were making runs. Rodney Stuckey finished with 16 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.
One thing that surprised me was how little Will Bynum played, especially in the fourth quarter. He played just 11 minutes and scored three points tonight, while in the last four games, he had been averaging just under 19 points per game in a little over 20 minutes per contest. I don't know if he tweaked something or if Coach Michael Curry figured it just wasn't his night (1-6 shooting), but I'm a little bit perturbed by this.
Anyway, this loss guaransheeds the Pistons fate: a sentence to seven games (if necessary) with King Lebron and Associates. The worst thing that can happen to the Pistons is they get slaughtered in four games. If that happened, it would serve as a pretty fitting cap to what has been a rocky season and a prelude to major changes this off-season.
Luckily, with a season like this there is a middle ground in my opinion. Clearly the Pistons are the underdogs and any type of fight, perhaps taking it to six, maybe even seven games, and I call that a success. Any type of hope during this series, and Stern willing the Pistons pull off a miracle series upset, the regular season fiasco can at least be crammed to the back of our memory, for a little bit longer.
In the meantime, the PIstons have one more game Wednesday in Miami and then it's officially playoff time. I expect the 'Stones to approach Miami's game as they have the past five and go into the playoffs with a full head of steam
Hopefully, after Wednesday's game, I'll have some playoff posts for you. I'm already thinking about potential strategies on how to stop Lebron. I may even have the answer (and no it's not Allen Iverson). You know how Lebron throws talc in the air as the crowd throws confetti? Maybe, at the Palace, everyone behind press row could throw sand in his eyes, or even better, souvenir cups....too soon?