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Gary Payton: Pistons killer?

Considering the Heat won 59 games last year and came within one game of the NBA Finals, more than a few people thought it was odd they practically blew up their roster and added Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Gary Payton and James Posey.

But Chauncey Billups knows why they did it:

"They won 60 games (59) and the only team they struggled with was us. So, I have to figure they made those changes to get past us."

Heat president and head coach Pat Riley didn't exactly dispute that notion, though he said a lot more went into the acquisitions of Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Gary Payton and James Posey.

"If I did it perfectly, I probably would have gotten a couple of other guys," Riley told reporters. "I'm happy with what we did. You can't specifically look at a team and go, 'OK, I'm going to do this, and he's going to match up with this guy and he's going to match up with this guy.' "

But, as it turned out, Riley thinks the acquisition of Payton could end up being a key against the Pistons.

"I do believe at the end of the summer, we got very fortunate to get Gary, because I think Gary will have the moxie to play against Billups and maybe Rip," Riley said. "And I think maybe in a big-game situation defensively, he can shut people down."

Riley has been using Payton as a sort of closer. Williams starts and plays more minutes, but Payton has finished games.

Wait a minute, Riles, Gary Payton is going to be the difference? I'm sorry, but this isn't 2003. Don't you remember how The Mitten was embarrassed by the Pistons in the NBA Finals two years ago? How he scored just 3, 2, 6, 8 and 2 points in five games? And how Chauncey and Rip averaged 21 points a game? Sure, he had a good game the other night against Kobe, but there was a time in his career where he did that on a nightly basis. I just don't see him being a factor out there tonight, despite the Riley's wishful thinking.

On a sidenote, watch out for an early Darko Milicic sighting tonight -- Flip Saunders said he plans on rotating all of his big men on Shaq tonight. What I'm most interested in seeing, though, is if Dale Davis really can fill Elden Campbell's shoes.

Heat's housecleaning leaves Pistons puzzled [Detroit News]