The Clippers are certainly an up-and-coming team in the Western Conference, but they're absolutely no match for the Pistons. And that's not just me talking. Clippers caoch Mike Dunleavy basically admitted as much himself by resorting to a chickenshit hack-a-Ben strategy with almost half of the final quarter left to be played.
That's right, trailing by seven with 5:56 left on the clock, the Clippers revealed their lack of confidence in their defense by putting Ben Wallace on the free throw line just about every time the Pistons had the ball. They chased him around the court when he didn't even have the ball, wrapping him up just to stop the clock and put his 55% free-throw shoowing to the test. As a result, Big Ben shot 16 free throws in the final six minutes. He made three of them. The strategy worked, right?
Wrong -- it simply sparked a proud team to rally around an inspired player. Wallace may have missed 13 free throws in five mintues, but in that span he also snagged two rebounds (including one offensive), created a turnover with a steal, dished out two assists that led to five points and scored his final two points of the game on a dunk to put the Pistons up by 12 with 98 seconds on the clock. That's a five-point swing in favor of the Pistons from when Dunleavy first handed out the little skirts and asked his team to play like sissies.
The Clippers got some points back once the Pistons pulled their starters with less than a minute left, including a bonus free throw when Rasheed Wallace was called for a tech after jawing with Dunleavy as he was leaving the court. Unfortunately Rasheed's exact words weren't caught on tape, but I'm guessing he was probably pointing out that having a lack of cojones must run in the Dunleavy family.
After the game, Rasheed was a little more collected:
"There were about five minutes left and they were down by eight points," Rasheed Wallace said. "I could see maybe trying something like that if it was a two-point or a three-point game. But why do it when you're eight points down?"
In any event, Carlos and Carlos played well, Dale Davis made an appearance, and Flip Saunders was inexplicably restrained by security from speaking to the officials during a timeout in the third quarter. If that last part confuses you, I don't know what to say. It was just as confusing to see the highlight when the game came back from commercial. When Flip was asked about it during his post-game press conference, he didn't really know what was up, either. I'm curious to see if any of the newspaper beat writers pursue an explanation.
Pistons 109, Clippers 101 box score [ESPN]
Game recap [SI.com]