First, a lesson in history:
- May 2, 2003 -- St. Petersburg Times: Magic adding finishing touches against Pistons
The Magic team looking to eliminate the East's top seed, the Pistons, in tonight's Game 6 at the TD Waterhouse Centre, is different. Because this is a team that knows how to win in the fourth quarter and finish off an opponent, Tracy McGrady said.
Game 6 final score: Pistons 103, Magic 83
- May 16, 2004 -- North Jersey Herald: Nets: Skip the trip
Mere hours after the Nets enjoyed an epic and historic triple-overtime win, they were back in the gym, watching film and shooting free throws. Rest for the weary - and extremely happy - was not an option as New Jersey prepared to close out this series against the Pistons.
Lost in the splendor of Friday's instant classic that introduced Brian Scalabrine to the people of Detroit and made his legend grow in these parts, is the fact that the Nets are one win away from their third straight trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 6 final score: Pistons 81, Nets 75
- June 4, 2005 -- Associated Press: Eastern Conference finals; Heat lead 3-2
In what has developed into a back-and-forth series, the Heat used a huge run to close the first half and received strong performances from several sources in an 88-76 victory in Game 5 on Thursday.
The win moved Miami within one victory of the franchise's first NBA finals appearance where it would face San Antonio.
Game 6 final score: Pistons 91, Heat 66
- June 20, 2005 -- San Antonio Express-News: Spurs go up 3-2 in series
But in the end, Robert Horry hit a monster three-point shot with 5.9 seconds remaining in overtime that turned out to be the difference.
The San Antonio Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons 96-95. The Spurs lead the best of seven series 3-2. Game 6 is Tuesday at the SBC Center.
The Pistons haven't won a game in San Antonio since 1997.
Game 6 final score: Pistons 95, Spurs 86
Hey, the Pistons have backed themselves into a corner! I think this means the playoffs have officially started.
There's not much to be said about Game 5 that hasn't already been covered by the legion of readers that descended upon this post, but here's my take: I expected the Pistons to come charging out of the gate, but instead it was more like a crawl. Whatever happened to home court advantage? The crowd at the Q was electric from tip-off to the final buzzer in Games 3 and 4, and I fully expected the Palace faithful to match that energy. Instead, I saw empty seats that didn't fill up until well after the game started, by which time the Cavs had already successfully dictated a slow pace to the game.
It seems like the complaint du jour about the Pistons is that they're not as strong defensively as they have been in the past. That may be true, but looking over the box scores from each game, I couldn't expect the Pistons to play the Cavs any tougher. I know I'm glossing over some situational difficulties, but the Cavs have averaged just 84.5 points per game, and LeBron James is the only player causing problems game in and game out. When another player has come through, it's simply been a matter of hitting a timely shot -- a Damon Jones three-pointer here, a Donyell Marshall three-pointer there. Drew Gooden's layup in the final seconds won Game 5 for the Cavs, but he finished with all of four points, and was in the game only after Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao each fouled out.
No, the criticism I have with the Pistons are their incessant turnovers -- they committed a whopping 17 TO's on Wednesday night (or 21, if you want to count the four times Ben Wallace went to the free-throw line and failed to hit a single shot in seven attempts). Chauncey Billups led the entire league with a pristine 4.11 assist-to-turnover ratio in the regular season, but there he was on Wednesday committing six turnovers (including over-thrown passes on two potential fast breaks) with just five dimes. And is it too much to ask for the team to make a crisp pass now and then? Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince each had a couple of soft lobs snagged out of the air, with Prince's final turnover resulting in Billups having to foul out of the game with two minutes left in order to stop LeBron from scoring on a fast break.
Perhaps part of the reason the Pistons are turning the ball over so many times is because they're suddenly trying to execute a foreign offense. Remember how the Pistons used to swing the ball to the open man? Now everything has to be a one-on-one contest. I'm sorry, but Rip Hamilton can't create his own shot. He's at his best when he's coming off a pick and releasing the ball almost as soon as he catches it. He's a self-admitted rhythm shooter, and when he's forced to dribble six times before shooting he's going to turn in games like Wednesday when he shot just 5-16 from the field.
On a brighter note, call off the search party because Antonio McDyess found his shot. He opened the game 0-4 from the field in the first three quarters, but he was huge playing the entire fourth quarter, scoring all 11 of his points by going 5-5 from the field with six boards and two blocks. He finished with 11 boards and three blocks for the night. With Rasheed only playing 22 minutes due to his injured ankle as well as foul trouble, McDyess gave the Pistons a solid 27 minutes.
All in all, the Pistons won the battle of the boards (47-44), committed fewer personal fouls (21-27), had one more assist (16-15) and shot for a better percentage than the Cavs (42.7% to 38.3%). Despite being down for much of the game, the Pistons were not dominated; they simply couldn't get over the hump in the final minutes. Had Billups not fouled out, I think the Pistons would have pulled it out. But thems the breaks: when you play as sloppy as the Pistons have the past three games, you can't count on luck being on your side in the final minutes.
For all the "youth" that Cleveland has, they have a couple of battle-tested veterans who have experienced first-hand what the Pistons can do in the playoffs. Drew Gooden was a member of that 2003 Magic team that blew a 3-1 lead to Detroit, and Damon Jones was knocked out of the playoffs by Detroit the past two years as a member of the Bucks and Heat. But when it comes to experience, nobody can beat the Pistons, a team that's played in more games the past three years than any other team in the league.
Detroit has played 10 "win or go home" playoff games since 2003, and eight times they've emerged with a victory, losing to the Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003 and the Spurs in the NBA Finals in 2005. Furthermore, they haven't lost four games in a row since January 2005. Not only is it possible for the Pistons to stretch this series to seven games, at this point it should probably be expected.
Oh sure, it won't be quite as easy as I make it sound, but I have to imagine the Pistons' experience playing with their backs against the wall has to count for something -- just three extra points in either of the last two games would have been enough for the roles to be reversed with the Pistons nursing a 3-2 series lead.
And if the Pistons can't pull it out on Friday . . . well, how 'bout them Tigers?