A lot of people have said that almost every NBA game is decided in the final five minutes. Well, with apologies to the Sixers, this one was decided a couple of minutes after tipoff. Rip Hamilton drilled a 13-footer on the first possession, and next thing you know, the Pistons are up by 10. The Sixers hung tough for a while, but Detroit pulled away late to win by 20.
The "new look" Pistons are fun to watch. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News agrees:
The Pistons put on a clinic in how the Saunders system can work -- tenacious defense, an efficient, quick-striking offense and contributions up and down the roster.
"We really executed," said Billups, who had 12 points and 10 assists. "We got some easy baskets. We played with high energy. Our defense was great and our offense was better."
The Pistons had 22 fast-break points. They had 30 assists on 43 baskets. They shot 55.8 percent. It doesn't get much better than that.
"When you get 30 assists, it shows you are playing team basketball," Saunders said. "This league is about finding where the mismatches are and exploit the weaknesses."
The only disappointment was Rasheed Wallace's early foul trouble, but he made the most of his 19 minutes with 6 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks, an assist and a steal.
I've been watching these same five starters for two years that there's not much they can do that can impress me, but it sure seemed like Rip Hamilton was scoring at will late in the game. He finished with 37 points, but he could have well over 40 if he wanted. As for the bench, here are my highlights:
- Darko Milicic getting into the game in the second quarter. After two years of watching him pout through garbage time, it's going to take some time for me to get used to seeing him in the first half playing meaningful minutes. He didn't do much (9 minutes, 2 points, 2 boards, a steal and a block), but he definitely contributed.
- Carlos Delfino. He didn't get into the game until the fourth quarter, but he came through with an impressive under the basket windmill dunk followed by an 18-foot jumper.
- Jason Maxiell only had three minutes to make his mark, and he did with a tomahawk dunk on a fastbreak.
Good times, good times.