No offense to the Orlando Magic, who have some of the most likeable players in the Association (including Grant Hill and Dwight Howard, the Eastern Conference's answer to Amare Stoudemire), but Friday night's Piston win was simply a warm up for Sunday's much-anticipated matchup with the Heat.
The game was a bit worrisome in the first quarter; Howard racked up a double/double in the first 12 minutes and looked to be making a statement that he, rather than Ben or Rasheed, should be headed to Houston for the All-Star game. But fears of "Atlanta-all-over-again" were eliminated in the third quarter, when Sheed took control and the defense clamped down on Howard, et al.
I say this after every blowout, but it would have been nice to get the bench a few more minutes in the fourth, especially with the Pistons comfortably ahead. Specifically, Carlos Arroyo did some good things during a six minute stretch in the first half (3 dimes, 3 boards, and a block with no turnovers) and was inexplicably absent in the second half. While we've repeatedly debated Arroyo's merits recently, I'd tend to trust him with an 18-point lead with 8 minutes to go, especially with Chauncey still recovering from a number of nuisance-level injuries. Chauncey was tied for the team lead with 42 minutes. In contrast, Rip and Tayshaun played only 32 and 33 minutes, respectively, due to the energetic play of Maurice Evans and Carlos Delfino.
As for the upcoming Heat game, Sunday's matchup in Miami is obviously much more important to the Heat than to the Pistons, with the Heat still trying to forget their recent blowout loss to the Mavs. But despite Miami's curious offseason moves and mediocre first half-season, an intense rivalry still exists between the two teams, and most still consider Detroit v. Miami as a foregone conclusion in the EC-finals . Add in Alonzo Mourning's imaginary All-Star snub as further motivation, and Kazaam, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Heat should be especially fired-up and looking to break their 0-fer against the league's top teams.