A few months back last November, the Pistons rode into Dallas sporting a perfect 8-0 record before being upended by the ungracious host Mavericks, ending Detroit's bid for an unprecedented 82-0 season. The loss sent the Pistons into a downward spiral that resulted in 13 more losses over their next 61 games. Clearly, the 37-point beatdown suffered by the Boys in Blue that fateful Nov. 20 weighed on their minds all season.
Redemption Day finally came last night, on an evening that will forever be etched into the minds and hearts of Pistons fans as "March 28." Jerry Stackhouse fired the first shot, both literally and figuratively, to put the Mavericks up by two points with a 10-foot jumper as if to signify, both literally and figuratively, "we are winning this game."
But Blue saw through their former teammate's false optimism and rendered Stack's present progressive conjugation of "to win" obsolete. Like a vindictive Indian giver, the Pistons took back the present and exchanged it with the past: a Tayshaun Prince dunk tied the game at two, leaving Stack with the unpleasant mantra "we were winning this game" to be repeated repeatedly over the final 46 and a half minutes. From there, a marathon-esque 95-88 run by the Pistons over the balance of the game served as a nail in the Mavericks' coffin.
Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace wielded the hammer most often, snapping out of mini-slumps to lead the Pistons with 31 and 21 points, respectively. Mark Cuban's millions may have bought him a courtside ticket, but it cost Billups just 11 dimes to revive Detroit's hibernating offense -- Big Shot's deft passing facilitated the team's scoring inside (36 points in the paint) and out (9-12 on three-point attempts).
Blue's defense confined the Mavericks' vaunted offense to just 90 points: Dirk Nowitzki and Stackhouse led with 25 points each, while Keith Van Horn reminded everyone in the Eastern Conference that he's still in the league with 18 points off the bench.
Antonio McDyess delivered seven points and six boards in 19 minutes off the pine, while Tony Delk chipped in seven points in 13 minutes.
Carlos Delfino, who played seven minutes to Mo Evans' four, was credited with one basket and two turnovers. One of his turnovers was the result of an offensive foul which sent both he and Stackhouse to the ground and was followed with an awkward shoving match between both players seated on the floor. Even though the call gave the Mavs the ball with a chance to stretch a two-point lead to four late in the fourth quarter, the Pistons responded to Delfino's spark by forcing a Stackhouse turnover on the very next possession and embarking on a 5-0 run to take the lead once and for all.
Hypothetical triva time: now that the first tie-breaker (head-to-head series) is moot, the second tie-breaker for home court advantage should both the Pistons and Mavericks finish the season with the same record and advance to the NBA Finals is conference record. Sporting a 33-9 record against Eastern Conference foes, the Pistons have a clear advantage over the Mavs, who have gone 31-12 against the West with nine games remaining.
While Tuesday's game had all the trappings of a potential NBA Finals matchup, Wednesday's game could be a preview of the first round: the Pistons are headed for Philadelphia to play the 76ers, who currently sit in the uneviable No. 8 seed as the first obstacle in Detroit's march toward playoff destiny. After feeding off the energy of a boistrous Palace crowed that had worked itself into an absolute frenzy for much of Tuesday's game, it may be tough for the Pistons to reproduce their effort on the second night of a back-to-back on the road. The Boys in Blue notched a non-chalant victory against the Sixers in Philadelphia early last month, but that was a game that Allen Iverson sat out. It'll take playing with a bit more purpose this time around to elicit the same result.