There are some nights that I wish I hadn't ordered NBA League Pass this season. Last night, for instance, I could have been sitting on the couch, blissfully complaining to my fiance about having to watch Project Runway and struggling to follow the Pistons through the live updates on CBS Sportsline. But instead, I witnessed last night's debacle in Denver. Flip sums it up in today's Detroit News:
"I would like to say we did something good, but we didn't," Saunders said. "We had something to do with that, but it had more to do with how the Nuggets played. They played at an extremely high level."
The first half showed some promise. After receiving a 3-minute standing ovation from the Denver fans before tip-off, Chauncey proceeded to light up the Nuggets, scoring 19 of his 27 before the break. Rip showed some signs of life, getting into a shoving match with Rueben Patterson in the first quarter. (Note to self: don't mess with Rip these days.) The Pistons led by 6 after the first quarter and were up one at the intermission, but that was the end of the optimism.
It had to be embarrassing for the Boys in Blue, getting out-rebounded 59-35 and repeatedly being dunked on by the more energetic Nuggets squad. The Nuggets were also grabbing offensive boards at will, hauling in 22--many leading to easy tip-backs. Big Ben tried to answer, racking up 14 boards of his own, but he had no help down low from either Sheed or Antonio McDyess (5 and 2 rebounds, respectively). I kept waiting for someone from the Pistons to get angry--to throw a bow at Patterson or Kenyon Martin or to knock down Carmelo during one of his numerous dunks. Hey, that's what Laimbeer or Mahorn would have done. But no one answered. Instead, the Pistons looked tired and beat for most of the second half. Get used to this folks. Teams have figured out that the way to beat the Pistons this year is to continually crash the boards. The Pistons are absolutely mediocre on the defensive boards, and energetic teams (like they all are in the playoffs) will aim to take advantage of this shortfall.
So the six-game winning streak is over, and there is little time to lick wounds. The Pistons resume playing tomorrow night against the Sonics before rolling into the Staples Center to play Mamba and the Kobettes on Saturday. After those two, the Pistons should be able to recuperate, with only two games all next week.
The artist formerly known as "the human victory cigar"
So in a moment of frustration last night, I flipped through a few other games around the league. I see Chris Bosh dropping 27 on the Hawks (sigh). I see Dwayne Wade dropping 24 in another W for the Heat (grumble). And then I see Darko getting 12 points (on 6-7 shooting), 9 boards, 2 blocks, and 2 dimes in 26 minutes for the Magic (godd*mnit!).
Now for the record, I know that Darko would never have seen 26 minutes in a Piston uniform (unless it was spread out over two months). And I've stated in the past that Joe D is infallible--I won't completely back down off that statement...yet. But check out Darko's combined stats since joining the Magic (courtesy of the Worldcrossing Pistons forum): 95 minutes, 15-23 FG (65%), 34 points, 24 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, 11 blocks, 4 turnovers, 12 fouls. His 48 minute averages are just over 17 points, 12 boards, and 5.5 blocks. Compare those numbers to those of Dyess, who averages 16.8, 11, and 2.2 over 48 minutes.
Now it is early in the Darko era in Orlando, and I certainly don't expect the guy to continue hitting 65% of his shots, but consider this: the Magic have outscored their opponents by 30 points when he's been on the floor, and are consistently outscored when he sits. That stat, amongst all the extremely early returns on Darko's Magic career, may be the most significant of all the numbers I've thrown at you, since it was assumed during Darko's time in Detroit that allowing him to develop on the floor would hurt the Pistons chances of gaining home court advantage for the playoffs.
The 72 win talk was fun, but...
Um, yeah, uh...the Bulls were 72-10, right? The Pistons currently sit at 47-10? Sure, that's do-able.