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Flip Saunders

... maybe it's the coach's fault.

The Florida writers are having a field day with the Pistons second-guessing Flip Saunders. Ethan Skolnick of the Sun-Sentinel writes:

Everyone knows what the Pistons, trailing 2-1 to the Heat, should be doing differently.

Rasheed from Philadelphia, kick it off. What's your view of the Hack-a-Shaq? "It never worked when I was in Portland and it don't work now. To me, if I was the coach, I don't like that."

What's your take, Tayshaun from Compton, on keeping Dwyane Wade from averaging 30.7 points on 68.8 percent shooting? "I was pretty disappointed we didn't give Lindsey Hunter any action in the second half. I know Dwyane can shoot over him, but at least [Hunter] has the pressure and the quickness to be where he's at, at all times."

Any suggestions, mild-mannered Antonio from Mississippi, on how the Pistons can generate more offense? "We need to let Rasheed go to work. He was dominating down there. Then we went away from that. We started calling plays that weren't working."

Got all that, coach Flip Saunders? You are the coach, correct?

It's hard to tell, with Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and others offering expertise. That seems a problem for you, and a remarkable opportunity for the surprisingly harmonious Heat. Now that the Pistons have selected their scapegoat, the Heat can't be kind enough to open an escape hatch tonight.

Before I say anything, let me reiterate that I still consider Detroit the favorite not just in this series but also for the NBA title. My confidence in the team has not waned, though my perspective is starting to shift. There was a time this season that I wondered if Saunders would be fired if he failed to win a title, or at the very least make it to the NBA Finals. Right about now, though, I'm wondering if it wouldn't be the starting five that's broken up.

The Pistons have advanced to four consecutive Conference Finals under three different head coaches. Has all that success convinced them that they don't need to rely on their coach? Or that when things do go wrong, it's not their fault, but the coach's? I'm not completely ready to jump to that conclusion, but statements like those above certainly don't help me rule out the possibility.

I love the on-court chemistry that the Pistons have, and I think their success over the past three or four years shows that you don't need a dominant superstar to carry a team. But one advantage that Miami has is that they know either Dwyane Wade or Shaquille O'Neal will carry the rest of the team or go down trying.

Is Detroit unselfish to a fault? When the Heat lost Game 2, Shaq said "I need more touches." When the Pistons lost Game 3, McDyess says "Sheed needs more touches," and Tayshaun says, "Lindsey Hunter should play more," and Rip says, "We need to get the big guys scoring." The only Detroit player I've seen ask for more touches for himself is Ben Wallace, but there he was on Saturday passing up a dunk so Carlos Delfino can shoot (and miss) a three.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely down on this team or the way in which it was constructed. I'll take a balanced starting five over one or two superstars any day of the week -- the "Jerry Stackhouse era" is all too fresh in my mind. But when the chips are down, this team needs a player to stand up and say, "I got this one," not several players looking at the next guy saying, "I bet he could do it -- if the coach would only let him."

And that's not on Saunders, but the guys actually playing the game.

Pistons' question -- Who's in charge here? [Sun-Sentinel]