The Pistons trailed the Sonics for much of the first half, and with a little more than three minutes remaining in the second quarter they faced a 33-43 deficit. Rather than letting the Sonics turn it into a rout, however, the Pistons caught fire by scoring 17 points in the final 3:15 to enter halftime with an improbable 50-47 lead. Thank Chauncey Billups for turning the game around -- during the run, he scored 10 of his 21 points while assisting on two other buckets.
The game went back and forth the rest of the way, but the Pistons managed to close out the third with the lead. The Pistons had control for much of the fourth quarter, but Seattle hung around just long enough to suddenly sneak out to a one-point lead with 43 seconds left in the game. Rip Hamilton quickly answered with a three-pointer, and after Luke Ridnour tied the game for Seattle with a pair of free throws, the Pistons were in the favorable position of having the ball in the waning seconds of a tie game. With 20 seconds left, Billups dribbled out the clock before finding Hamilton open for a 19-foot jumper to end the game. (Edit: Need 4 Sheed has the last minute on video! Watch how sneaky Rip was just standing there before he dashed to the other side and came clean off a screen.)
Sounds like a pretty exciting game, huh? Well, I guess it was, but it was of the "sit back with a knot in your stomach" variety instead of the "on the edge of your seat cheering" type.
Following the loss, Seattle is now 22-37 -- that's 15 games under .500! Detroit had no business letting this game stay so close. But once again, the Pistons were manhandled on the boards: Seattle grabbed with 48 rebounds (12 offensive); the Pistons, 36 (9). And sadly, they all gift-wrapped the game by missing 13 of 23 (56.5%) free throws. But what are you going to do? Ben Wallace was the only Piston to miss more than two free throws, going 1-8 on the night. That's a bad night even by his standards, but it's going to happen now and then.
And, not to beat a dead horse, but I would have preferred Rasheed Wallace taking it inside a bit more often. He had an outstanding game with 21 points and 11 boards (plus three assists and three blocks), but he shot 4-13 from three-point range and 4-7 from inside the arc. He was absolutely wide open for a lot of his threes, so you can't blame him for taking them, but it's obvious he can have a lot of success whenever he posts up. And it's almost too obvious to point out, but a higher shooter percentage means fewer rebounds the Pistons have to worry about giving up.
This game also marked the debut of new Piston Tony Delk, who played 10 minutes and contributed two points and two assists. He helped out on defense and overall looks like he could be a solid contributor the rest of the way. Maurice Evans only played seven minutes -- all in the second quarter -- but he was very productive with four rebounds and a steal, which led to a fastbreak in which he scored two of his four points. I'm not sure why Flip Saunders didn't put him back in the game in the second half, but it may have been a combination of Seattle's 8-2 run to start the third (which put Detroit back under the gun) and the fact that Tayshaun Prince's defense was needed on Rashard Lewis. Sadly, DBB favorite Miami Vice earned the dreaded DNP-CD.Did Not Play - Coach's Decision
As for the Sonics, at least Bob Hill remembered what the sideline is for, unlike the first time Seattle played Detroit. And I can totally see why the Sonics traded for Earl Watson (and why Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis campaigned for such a trade back in January). He didn't make a big impact statistically but was a hard-nosed defender that got his teammates involved when he was on the floor.
On a sidenote unrelated to the actual outcome, it was a little unnerving to see a trio of masked players in the game at the same time. Following in Rip's footsteps is Seattle center Robert Swift, who recently underwent surgery for a broken nose, and Antonio McDyess, who donned one mid-game after being bopped in the nose yet again. McDyess probably should have been wearing his all along -- he's broken his nose a couple of times this year and has had one waiting for him at the scorers tables for a while now. Swift just looks awkward on the court in the first place, as gangly, 7-foot pale white guys usually do. But toss in the mask complete with a bright white headband and the result is actually a little creepy.
Pistons 98, Sonics 96 box score [ESPN]
Previously on Detroit Bad Boys:
Pistons explain finer points of rules to Hill, Sonics