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Real-time recap: Pistons cool Heat

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Given that Wednesday’s game against the Heat marks the beginning of what will probably be the most important 10-day stretch of the regular season, we decided to take a different approach to recapping tonight's game. So, without further ado, enjoy the first DBB real-time recap -- a collaborative effort between Matt and Ian. (Apologies to our respective fiancees for the late-night work on this one.)

Ben Wallace guards Shaq O\'Neal

FIRST QUARTER

12:00 – So it appears that Shaq has recovered from his "thumb injury" in time to suit up. Go figure -- anyone see that coming? He scores the first two points of the game. Pistons open things off with the same starting five they've used in every game this season – 67 games, a new league record. The 2002-03 Warriors are officially non-descript.

10:50 – Chauncey drains a three for Detroit – nice to see all those jumpers he took in practice paid off. Another 2-8 game from beyond the arc like Monday would hurt. (Note: Chauncey finished 3-8 from three.)

Can you remember when Jason Williams was relevant? Now he’s just another guy wearing tights. The only thing that looks dumber than a guy wearing tights is a guy thumbing his jersey… unless he’s from Coatesville, PA. Then he can do it all he wants.

8:16 – Out of bounds Pistons; Heat ball. Rasheed pleads his case to the ref. Please don’t get a tech, please don’t get a tech, please don’t get a tech . . .

Tirico just said 70% of James Posey’s field goal attempts are three-pointers. I had no idea he was such a gunner.

6:40 – Walton tells us Big Ben has had little impact on the game so far. You know, except for those two rebounds and that steal. Is it me, or isn’t that good for about five minutes of action?

4:43 – Wade miss leads to Tayshaun fast break . . . and one.

4:20 – Prince intercepts Wade pass, which leads to Chauncey fast break.

2:20 – Big Ben steals a Payton pass – and finishes with a jumper to take the lead. When Ben is hitting jumpers to take the lead, you know it’s going to be a long night.

McDyess draws the Shaq foul, his second, he heads to the bench. Walton makes the case that the Pistons need to get Ben Wallace active to force more Shaq fouls. . . without mentioning it was Tayshaun and Dice that drew the first two fouls on Shaq. If Ben Wallace has the ball and you’re fouling him to stop him, you’re doing something wrong.

0:29 – Wade’s drive goes out of control, hits the ground and turns the ball over. He’s still waiting for his first FG, by the way.

End of first: Heat 21, Pistons 19

Alonzo Mourning is helped off the court

SECOND QUARTER

10:00 – Oh, snap! Alonzo Mourning goes down, heads to the locker room.The post-game news is that he suffered a torn right calf muscle and will miss 2-4 weeks. Michael Doleac may have played just one minute on Wednesday, but Shaq doesn't have many 40 minute games left in him. Tough break for Miami -- 'Zo is scary good. Good thing you took Tuesday off, Diesel; you’re in for a long night.

9:10 – Mo Evans goes up for a dunk – nope a layup . . . that he misses. Walton’s no where to be heard – I’ll cover: "C’mon, throw it down, big fella! Both hands!"

8:45 – Shaq rims out a hook shot. What a low-post presence!

8:00 – Antoine Walker hits a three, Pistons down 11. Big-time bummer, but I’ll take my chances with ‘Toine shooting the long ball. He’s not as good as he thinks he is.

7:38 – Tirico points out the Pistons are shooting 8-for-38. Ouch, it’s been brutal.

7:15 – Shaq misses a layup. He’s just dominant!

7:07 – Alley-oop for Rasheed – that’s right, warm up down low.

6:40 – Jason Williams hits a wide open three for Miami. Prince was so late running out to him that he doesn’t even put up his arms. Why not? His arms are 10 feet long – why not at least get a hand in his vision and make him rush? It’s not just Prince, you see NBA players do this all the time, and it kills me.

6:20 – Three for Rasheed – that’s right, warm up outside.

6:04 – Shaq (finally) gets whistled for extra steps. He’s phenomenal!

5:30 – Chauncey rushes a three. He’s 1-4 from three-point land; not looking good, but considering that he shoots the three better than he shoots from inside the arch (43% to 42%, respectively), I’ll deal with it.

3:30 – Shaq misses a baby jumper. This guy is unstoppable!

3:15 – Three for Chauncey. That’s right, work it out.

2:40 – Wade misses fast break layup. He has three points! All from the free throw line! Can someone tell Tirico and Walton it’s time to throw away the ESPN script! They’re still jocking him like he’s been a big factor in this game.

1:45 – Turnover for Wade.

1:12 – Hey, look at this: Walton admits that as great as Wade is, he has to give Detroit’s backcourt the edge over Miami’s so far. You think? Wade has yet to hit a FG! J-Will has hit a couple, but he’s been quiet.

0:21 – Wade’s long-awaited first FG of the night. Finishes the half with five points.

End of the first half. Heat 43, Pistons 35

Heading into the locker room, ‘Toine says that Miami is going to keep pounding the ball into the paint to Shaq until the Pistons decide to double-team. When does Detroit ever double-team Shaq? The Pistons beat L.A. in 2004 and beat the Heat in 2005 without doubling him up. Why would they start now?

Granted, something has to change, and quick, if Detroit is going to win this game, but their problems so far are on offense, not defense. Miami has 43 points at halftime – that’s a win for Detroit. Wade has five points on 1-6 shooting from the field – that’s a win for Detroit. Shaq has 14 points on 6-11 shooting… but with ‘Zo out of the game, Shaq is going to be gassed by the fourth quarter and a non-factor late in the game. That’s a win (well, more like a break) for Detroit.

Coming back after halftime, Walton says Shaq, "the game’s most dynamic performer," has been incredible. Whatever – Shaq has 14 points and three rebounds – nice, but hardly incredible. Seems like Detroit is doing the exact same thing they usually do – let Shaq get his, but shut down everyone else.

Rasheed Wallace guards Dwyane Wade

THIRD QUARTER

9:00 – Haslem misses, Pistons rebound. Walton: "Shaq’s passing, a thing of beauty tonight." Actually, Shaq’s passing, a non-factor in that possession.

8:20 – Tayshaun misses a three-pointer. We’re only down eight: stop… shooting… threes.

7:30 – Shaq goes up for the dunk, but it’s blocked by… a 24-second violation. (OK, not his fault, but still…)

7:14 – OK, right now, Chauncey is shooting to draw contact, not shooting to score. That needs to change, and soon.

6:56 – About those threes? Nevermind. Rip drains it – yessir! Pistons down eight.

5:45 – Rip draws the offensive foul on Wade going after a pass. Tirico: "Hard to catch the ball when you have both hands on the guy defending you. You need one to catch it, right?"

5:06 – Shaq misses a jumper. He’s got no legs – he’s gassed. The Heat miss Zo.

5:00: Mr. Big Shot drains a three – Pistons down three and on a roll.

Crap. Pistons playing tough – block two shots on D but force a three the other way. (Getting greedy.) Force another turnover, but a gawd-awful layup from at least eight feet out by Rip. Out of bounds, Heat ball. Wade drains a three, Pistons down six. Crap.

3:35 – Sheed misses three. Stop… shooting… threes!

3:20: I think Bill Walton just threw out his back bending over for Wade – thank god for Tivo, because we went back and got this word for word:

Walton: "You look at his body, Dwayne Wade, it’s as if Michelangelo sculpted it in a dream. He’s just so cut, and his posture, the rack upstairs and those shoulders, so broad."

That, followed by an awkward silence by Tirico. Officially the first time I’ve heard a man talk about another man’s "rack upstairs."

2:58 – Shaq bullies his way down low and "draws" a foul on Ben. Apparently you’re not allowed to touch another man’s elbow with your face as he drives you backwards. Who knew?

2:58 – Europe’s "The Final Countdown" is playing in the background, officially signaling the end of the Heat’s chances tonight. Their best bet was to run out so far ahead that the track was saved for another day. Now they face the wrath...

A steal for Detroit leads to a Billups shot – missed, but two freebies for Billups. Bam. Tie game. It’s all in the song.

1:39 – Wade gets a jumper, Rip gets a three – Pistons lead by one.

0:39 – Chauncey shakes Wade out of his shorts, twists in the air, and draws the foul on a missed layup. Tirico: "Dwyane Wade just got Waded." Great line, Mike! Now there’s the Michigan native we know and love! By the way, Wade has three fouls.

Shaq leaves the game, Walker enters – Heat going small.

0:05 – Chauncey drives and… four fouls on Wade! Yeah, putting Chauncey, the fourth-leading free-throw shooter in the league, on the line with five seconds left was smart.

OK, maybe it was: Chauncey splits. But still, four fouls is big.

End of third, Heat 59, Pistons 60 – the tide has turned!

Chauncey Billups comes up big in the fourth

FOURTH QUARTER

Walton says the Pistons should give it to Sheed now that Shaq on the bench… except Shaq is in the game. Do you not see the 7-1, 340-pound giant out there?

9:57 – Lindsey Hunter hits a jumper, ties the game at 62.

9:45 – Hunter gets plowed by Walker, Pistons ball.

9:20 – Hunter grabs defensive board over Shaq. Hunter, 6-2, not 200 pounds soaking wet, grabs a rebound over Shaq. Seems like all the boards Shaq gets anymore are the ones that just fall to him, which works a lot of the time since he’s so big he forces his way into position. Maybe if they painted the ball to look like a pork chop...

9:03 – Sheed misses two free throws. I think the ball just lied... twice.

8:08 – Mo Evans gets the rebound… and misses the putback. Hey, how come Carlos Delfino hasn’t played at all? Wasn’t he supposed to play against "bigger swingmen" like Wade? Oh well; it’s not like Wade is hurting the Pistons – 10 points in 31 minutes.

7:30 – McDyess jumper is good! Tied at 64.

6:58 – McDyess jumper is good! Pistons up two. Speaking of McDyess, he has come to play tonight, looking reminiscent of Dyess, version 2005.

6:16 – Prince goes baseline for the layup, Pistons up four, longest lead in the game. I really do think Prince may have the longest arms in the league.

5:35 – Another McDyess jumper! Someone has forgotten about New York.

5:13 – Forced jumper by Wade. He’s 3-of-14.

4:42 – Tayshaun nails a running jumper on Wade. Seriously, a 6-4 Wade has no business guarding a 6-7 Tayshaun. Not with four fouls, not with Tay’s three-inch height advantage, and not with Tay’s 36-inch wingspan advantage.

4:30 – Tirico asks, do you go to Shaq down the stretch or give it to Wade like you have time and time again over the past couple of months? Seems like even he and Walton are realizing just how bad Wade been tonight.

4:09 – Wade’s fishing for contact, comes up empty, bricks a rushed jumper. Rip scores in transition, Pistons up 74-67. What’s the sound? Rip just dropped a hammer. Nail, coffin, all that.

3:45 – Shaq just had his shot blocked by McDyess – the replay was clean – but Dice gets whistled. Sheed complains, but Dice heads to the bench smiling – the Pistons have this. On the night, McDyess shot 4-9 for nine points, six boards and three blocks (well, four, but three that counted). [Note: the remainder of the Piston bench, Lindsey, Tony Delk, and Mo Evans scored a combined 2 points on 1 of 13 shooting. Delfino could have done that.] Shaq hits one of three free throws (Pistons whistled for a lane violation on the second one.)

2:35 – Wade falls down trying to guard Prince – Prince dunks.

1:55 – Walker throws up a three-point shot… airball. Remember when I said I like it when Walker is shooting from downtown?

1:27 – Shaq line drives a hook shot off the back of the rim – he’s totally rushing it. And why not? The Heat are down eight with less than 90 seconds left.

1:10 – Classic: the Heat try to "trap" Chauncey, but Chauncey just slowly backs up and dribbles out the clock. The passing lane was never actually blocked off – defeating the purpose of a double-team – and Chauncey gets it to Sheed, who takes it in for an easy score. Cripes – it’s like the Heat have never played pressure defense.

Surprise! Tirico, Walton and the nameless, faceless sideline reporter are now babbling about Wade’s "wrist injury." Allow me paraphrase the sideline announcer: Not to make an excuse, but let me make an excuse. You know, the Heat had fewer points, but the real loser tonight was ESPN, who looked more than a little silly after their disgusting display of Dwayne Wade-pimping. By my count, Wade delivered exactly one field goal for every video montage (three), probably far less than The Worldwide Leader had in mind.

One last note: as the last few seconds of the game wind down, the lower bowl at the Palace is half empty. Yes, this was a big game, but it’s just another regular season game for the former champs and their fans. No playoff-like celebrating for the Pistons or their fans tonight. . . despite the fact that the win clinched sole possession of the Central Division for the Pistons (apparently Monday's win only guaranteed them a share of it)., unlike Miami’s pathetic display last month. Some advice, Miami: act like you’ve been there.

0:00 – It’s a final—Pistons win, 82-73. It was a tight, low-scoring game, but the Pistons seem to have written the book on beating the Heat (let them run out, let them get tired, watch them fade away). And if you’re looking for the silver bullet stat, consider this—the Pistons turned the ball over only five times all game (and not once in the second half), their stingiest since dropping the rock only four times against the Clips on December 11th. Protecting the ball mitigated the damage of a less-than 35% shooting night (yikes).

Pistons 82, Heat 73 play-by-play [ESPN]

[EDIT:] Well, at least Shaq knows how to be a good sport -- From the Miami Herald:

"We're not impressed with what they so-called did," O'Neal said. "It's what we didn't do."

"We [messed] that game up. And you can put it just like that. We [messed] that game up."

Methinks Shaq is getting tired of Detroit consistently [messing] him up the past couple of years.