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Games are won down the stretch

The NBA is all about finishing games. You can't just "feel good about your chances," you need to "impose your will."

The Pistons know this; the Rockets don't.

From the Houston Chronicle:

"We were feeling pretty good about our chances, a one-point game with not a lot of time (five minutes) left," Wesley said. "It's certainly where we want to be against a team like the Pistons. But we played a good team that finished better than we did. That's the bottom line."

Within 67-66 with five minutes left, the Rockets scored four points in the final five minutes, making just six shots with four turnovers while the Pistons were nearly perfect.

From the Detroit News:

"With 5 minutes left, we were up one and we just kind of looked at each other and said, 'We're going to get what we want now. We're going to force our will,'" said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, who scored 13 points.

"We feel like, late in the game, we're going to get it done. We don't know who it will be, but we know it will be somebody."

It wasn't pretty, but Detroit scratched out an eight-point win to improve to 8-0 on the season, tying the 1988-89 Bad Boys for the second-best start in team history.

Chauncey Billups was held to 30 minutes (13 points, four assists) due to foul trouble, which gave Carlos Arroyo the chance to play 18 minutes. He was OK, but I'm still not completely sold. Mo Evans was clearly the best guy off the bench, while Antonio McDyess shot just 1-6 with two points and four boards in 15 minutes. Darko Milicic blocked a couple of shots in just five-plus minutes, and he didn't back down from Dikembe Mutombo's infamous (and tech-inducing) finger-wagging. Don't let anyone tell you this kid isn't aggressive.

Tracy McGrady clearly wasn't at 100%, but Tayshaun Prince deserves a lot of credit for holding him to six points on 3-16 shooting. Yao Ming is still a pretty big novelty for those of us that follow the Eastern Conference. It's pretty amazing to see what he can do when he makes an aggressive move to the basket, and it's a wonder why he doesn't do that all of the time. Defensively, he's not anywhere near where he should be given his natural size advantage.

I stumbled across Club Yao, which appears to be his official fan club, and was surprised to read this:

The only real excitement in the game was watching Yao take Ben Wallace to school, showing aggressiveness down low and scoring 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting. And although Houston’s offense was sucking again (except for Yao), the Rockets managed to keep it close and had a shot at the end to win it.

Wallace was schooled? Yeah, he scored five points, but Wallace does that once in a while, and he certainly made up for it with 16 rebounds and four blocks. Yao managed 20 points and 11 boards... to go with nine turnovers and six personal fouls! At least Yao is a little more realistic than his fans:

"Whether it's on the road or at home, we try to run our offense in the last couple of minutes, but we cannot finish our job," said Yao, who finished with nine turnovers. "My fouls are making me leave the game. Also, I didn't take care of the ball."

Lastly, I was always a big Jon Barry fan, so it was refreshing to see him play 28 minutes. But man, for as long as he was in the game, he did almost nothing to fill up the box score -- just four points, one rebound, one assist, one steal. Granted, he does a lot of little things that don't translate into statistics, but that argument is a lot harder to believe now that he's not actually on my team.

Next up: Dallas (and the 1970-71 Pistons, who opened their season 9-0)

Elite out of reach [Houston Chronicle]
Good guys equal the Bad Boys [Detroit News]
Rockets fall to 3-6 after loss to Detroit [Club Yao]
Pistons 78, Rockets 70 box score [USATODAY.com]