Whew... This one might have been a loss earlier in the season -- that is, if close defeats at home to the Hornets and Blazers are any indication. As it is, Chauncey Billups' ability to shake off a forgettable night and drain two huge free throws -- and Rasheed Wallace being the beneficiary of a questionable no-call -- allowed the Pistons to escape with the 92-91 victory over the Nets.
Perhaps the Nets' run as one of the top teams in East really has come to the end. The Pistons certainly didn't bring their A-game as they have in recent victories over playoff contenders like Dallas, Orlando, and Cleveland. Aside from Sheed's lights-out first quarter (16 points, including four triples), Nazr Mohammed's inside scoring (15 points in 23 minutes), and Rip Hamilton's ability to get to the basket, highlights were few. Even the Piston bench, which recently has provided an offensive spark, offered very little.
In fact, the game was perhaps most defined by its noncombatants. The officials levied 49 personal fouls; they tagged the Pistons with three technicals in the second half; and they
missed correctly ignored a potential Rasheed Wallace blocking foul on Vince Carter in the final seconds, which enabled the Pistons to run out the clock.
After the game, all anyone wanted to talk about was Sheed's
contact with excellent defense of Carter (from the Detroit News):
When asked if he fouled Carter, Wallace sheepishly said, "Um, maybe… That could have gone either way. He put his head down, and I tried to take the charge. It was a no-call. I'll buy that for a dollar."
But while the Pistons sounded like the cat who ate the canary, Jason Kidd sounded like a man who didn't care too much about league-imposed fines, at least not at the moment when he ripped into the officiating crew following the game:
We come to work, and we work extremely hard at this, only for the officials to screw us," Jason Kidd said. "We fought, but that doesn't mean anything when you have the officials take over the game like that. You go with the Three Blind Mice, and it's just sad that Tom (Washington) screwed up that game for us."
Your grain of salt
Against the Nets -- a team not known for its interior play -- Detroit should have had a clear advantage in the frontcourt. Playing without Nenad Kristic, the Nets' patchwork big man rotation of Jason Collins, Mikki Moore, and Josh BooneThe trio for the season has a combined scoring average of under 10. held their own. Matched against 'Sheed, Nazr, Antonio McDyess, Dale Davis, and Jason Maxiell, the Nets' trio scored enough (28 points combined) and managed to outboard the Pistons' bigs (19-15). They allowed Jersey's star power -- Kidd (near triple double, with 13, 9, and 7 dimes), Carter (28 points), and Richard Jefferson (18 on 8-12 shooting) -- a fighting chance to the very end.
Not to focus too much on a negative after a win, but that effort probably doesn't equate to a W against a better team.
Damon Jones redux
As if it wasn't enough that Damon Jones is still playing in the Central Division (instead of say, Mongolia), now we have to deal with former Piston big man Mikki Moore in the starting lineup for the Nets. Moore, with his tenacious glare and the arm definition of a 7 year-old, was all over the court in his 30 minutes of PT. He finished with 8 points and 3 boards but made the most of his offensive opportunities, going 2-2 from the field and 4-4 from the line. He was diving. He was barking. He was fouling.
He was a thorn in the Pistons' side all night... and mine as well as it turns out. Below are verbatim some notes that I took during the game. I didn't realize until afterwards how prominent Mikki was featured:
- Moore is the first NBA player I've seen who makes tattoos look bad. His arms are so skinny that some of his designs look like they overlap themselves.
- Remember when you were a kid and your little brother begged you over and over again to let him play ball with you and your friends? And then your fat friend got too tired after after only a couple games of half court, so you had to let your brother play? And then your little brother runs all over the court like a spaz practically assaulting guys on defense and begging to touch the ball on the offensive end? Yeah, well that's Mikki Moore, who in back-to-back offensive and defensive possessions threw the ball away and committed a brutal foul. In between, he got a not-so-accidental shoulder to the chest from Sheed. Hey, you said you wanted to play, little brother.
- Rip Hamilton gets a star call against Mikki Moore after clearly lowering his shoulder and levelling Mikki in the lane. Mikki wasn't falling to be dramatic either... Rip Hamilton bowled him over... all 155 pounds of Rip levelled a 7-footer... why am I so haunted by this guy?
- Mikki Moore hits a layup in the lane and yells out "Oh, And 1!" He is promptly ignored by everyone on the court and in the stands. On his way back up court, Mikki stares with a fierceness only seen in freshmen v. JV games.
- Mikki Moore picks up another foul and is replaced by Josh Boone, a rookie from UConn... or so George Blaha tells me. (I think it is fairly obvious that this whole "Josh Boone" thing is just another attempt by Cheryl Miller to break the NBA's gender barrier.)
- 2:50 left in the game. Sheed backing down Mikki Moore. Yeah, I like those odds.
- 2:18 remaining. Nazr driving against Mikki Moore. Yeah, I like those odds.
- After the no-call on Vince Carter's last second shot, Lawrence Frank leaps onto the court and gives his sternest Peter Pan pose. With a pat on the head, he is sent back to the Nets' bench.
And one non-Mikki observation:
Yeah, I think it is safe to say that our dislike of the Nets hasn't abated just yet.
Pistons 92, New Jersey 91 box score [NBA.com]
Pistons cut down Nets [Detroit News]
Billups' free throws carry Pistons to fifth straight victory [ESPN]