Hopefully Detroit employs the "no layups allowed" rule. Game 5 is about to tip off -- leave your in-game comments here. After each quarter (or whenever something remarkable occurs), Matt and I will post our own observations below.
Pre-game: Before we kick things off, remember this Game 5? Because I do.
Are you one of those disenchanted fants who believe the Pistons are playing their last game tonight? Then hurry up and put your money where your mouth is: you can get Heat +5.5 from your favorite online sportsbook. Personally, I think it's a fool's bet -- I'm predicting a double-digit win by Detroit.
A couple items of note before we kick things off:
1) I didn't realize that Chauncey was having as good a series as he is. 20+ points and shooting in the mid-40s; no one can fault Big Shot.
2) I expect a Piston win (because I'm a homer), but if all the whining is indicative of how painful this season has been for the players, then I guess I wouldn't be surprised to see them roll over tonight. If you'd have asked me a week ago, I'd say there's no chance of it happening, but I just don't recognize the Boys in Blue these days. They're like a whole team of Benoit Benjamins out there.
3) Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" to kick off tonight's broadcast. I guess that's better than "Free Fallin.' "
11:45 -- Jason Williams takes (and bricks) the Heat's first shot of the night. We'll take that all...freakin'...night.
10:40 -- Rip Hamilton is struggling. I don't know that we can afford for him to be shooting his way out of the slump tonight.
8:16 -- Ben is shooting the lowest post-season percentage from the free-throw line...ever. And he promptly splits the pair. We'll take it.
7:47 -- Ben with the volleyball block! That's been missing all series long (only his second of the series, according to ESPN).
7:16 -- Sheed with the beautiful running hook, and the Heat call timeout on the other end of the floor. The Boys in Blue are playing with a purpose tonight. If they can sustain it, then those that took Matt's advice earlier (take Pistons, -5.5) are in for a fun night. Not that we condone gambling (Pistons to win the series could be a moneymaker too.)
"We're not good enough to win it with one or two guys, " says Chauncey. I'm glad someone finally said it.
5:58 -- Ben EFFING Wallace drives on Shaq, draws the second Kazaam hack, and gets the And 1. And just like that, his anti-Flip bitchfest is temporarily forgiven.
4:40 -- Alright, after four failed drives and zero fouls called, Rip needs to realize that he isn't going to get that call tonight. It is time to rotate the ball and find the open man. He's starting to look like Lindsey out there.
2:11 -- Tay drives and dunks over Alonzo Mourning (aka, the Devil's Deputy). And 1. Afterwards, Sheed makes sure to laugh in his face...up close. It's all smiles out there if you're in Piston white. Meanwhile, Zo is not a happy man. "What?" you say. "Zo bitching like a schoolgirl?" It's just like old times up in here.
1:36 -- One of the worse fouls I've seen this series, Antonio McDyess gets whistled for executing a perfect step out on Wade after the pick bumped off Lindsey.
0:12 -- And now, Lindsey blocks Haslem's shot cleanly resulting in...a foul, of course. "Joey Crawford was right on top of that one," says Hubie. Uh huh. Haslem bricks both. (What was that phrase they used to use waaay back when the Pistons weren't losing 6 of 9, "ball don't lie?" Yeah, that's it.)
End of Q1 with the Pistons leading 25-20, Shaq in foul trouble, and the Pistons without a turnover. Miami has to feel pretty fortunate at this point to only be down 5, and the Pistons have to feel pretty good about their return to respectability. I'm going to turn things over to Matt for Q2, and I'll be back for the third.
How big is the fact that the Pistons won the first quarter? As we mentioned earlier this week, the winner of the first quarter has gone on to win the game in each of the first four games so far.
9:48 -- Ugly turnover by McDyess, but it's the Pistons' first of the night. Miami, by the way, already has four.
9:17 -- Lindsey Hunter and his pitbull defense forces Dwyane Wade to call a timeout to avoid the eight-second violation. The Heat inbound but can't find the bucket, and then procede to allow Rip Hamilton to score in transition. Things are going well for Detroit right now.
8:08 -- McDyess wide open for the reverse jam!
6:42 -- Dwyane Wade gets called for the reach-in on Lindsey Hunter. How's that medicine taste, Wade? You better like it, because its yours.
5:57 -- Sheed lofts up an ultra soft jumper in the paint that hits the front of the rim -- scared of Mr. O'Neal, are ya Sheed? Jason "White Chocolate" Williams get the rebound and sets up the long fast break pass to Wade, who slams it home. Good thing the game is at the Palace -- that would have been enough to wake up even the sleepy celebrities at AAA.
Aw man, Ian just IM'd to say McDyess was holding his wrist as he left the court -- looks like he may have hurt his wrist on the reverse jam.
Did Chuck Daly just say that Pat Riley "may even be better looking" than when they squared off in the Bad Boys days? I don't even want to check my DVR to find out.
4:02 -- Chauncey Billups finds Ben Wallace splitting the middle for a big jam. At least something seems to be working against that damn 2-3 zone.
2:55 -- The Pistons are just too slow getting their offense going. Chauncey doesn't get it to Sheed until three seconds are left on the 24. Sheed drains the turnaround jumper... but not before the buzzer goes off. Would have been pretty were they a second or two faster. Pistons leading by just two.
2:17 -- A Rip Hamilton miss turns into a Dwyane Wade fastbreak -- Heat up by one: 40-39. Luckily before I can even describe Wade's dunk, the Pistons score four quick points to regain a three-point lead.
0:50-ish -- Tay drives the lane for a pretty floater... well, it would have been pretty had he not immediately complained to the ref looking for the And 1. Tay: players play, refs ref, don't even think about a foul until you hear a whistle.
0:00.8 -- Chauncey holds it for the final shot of the half, splitting the lane for a left-handed layup. Pistons up, 47-43.
Sideline reporter Jim Gray asks Rip Hamilton as he's leaving the court if he's disappointed the Pistons are only up four after leading by as much as 11 -- leave it to Gray to try to bring a guy down. (I know, I know, it's a simple question, but when he's not busy sniffing Kobe's crotch, he's raining on someone's parade. I don't even like Pete Rose and I'll never forgive Gray.)
I don't know what I'm more happy about -- Shaq entering halftime with three fouls, or Rasheed and Ben with none? With Detroit's big men free to play physical for the entire second half, it'll be more difficult for Dwyane Wade to unleash his usual fury. (Oh, believe me, I know some fury will be unleashed, but at this rate, perhaps not the full dose.)
Chauncey has just five points, but he's driving the Pistons with seven assists and no turnovers. Tay is hot with 15 points on 6-10 shooting, but Sheed (four points, two boards) still needs to step up. And how 'bout Rip Hamilton? 14 points and seven boards.
OK, that's all from me until the fourth -- back to Ian.
Before we get started with the second half, I'm going to take a different stance than Tim Legler and my esteemed colleague (Matt). Rip, I like the 7 boards, but the 14 points on 14 shots and the 1/3 assist to turnover ratio is nothing to be proud of. He needs to tighten up his game, and quick.
Also, it'll be interesting to see who comes out as the first big off the bench for the Pistons. Dyess didn't look too good after banging his wrist on that reverse dunk early in the second. Who knows though, maybe that's what he needed to straighten out his errant (as of late) jumper.
11:27 -- Sheed sinks the first shot of the second half and then promptly gives up the 'And 1' to Kazaam on the other end. The Boys need to get Shaq's fourth foul out of the way now.
10:41 -- Unnecessary alley-oop toss to Ben leads to a turnover. Luckily the Heat give it right back on the other end. BTW, Hubie says that Ben has "small hands" -- I'm going to leave that one alone for now.
9:21 -- Rip Hamilton needs to shut the hell up. Technical foul on Rip; get the hell out of the game. Sometimes I don't understand why the hell this team feels it necessary to whine so much. It makes them extremely unlikeable to those non-Detroit fans.
9:08 -- Douchebag Derek Jeter apparently has a mancrush on Dwyane Wade. Yet another reason to hate the guy.
8:28 -- Ben Wallace makes Shaq into his bitch. He cups the dunk attempt, forces the jump ball, and then wins the tip. Wow. Matt just IM'd me: "small hands, my ass."
Lost in the excitement of that absolutely amazing turn of events was a great point by Hubie Brown. DWade, Rip, et al need to shut up when it comes to the refs. They have called this game consistently from the beginning; it is up to the players to adjust.
7:15 -- Ben with the monster dunk, And 1 -- and HE HITS THE FREE THROW! Apparently the fro is not needed tonight.
6:31 -- Rip grabs his eighth board on the offensive end and sticks the put-back jumper. This, is Deeetroit Basketball!
4:01 -- After some back and forth, Chauncey finally drills the jumper from the corner with his toes on the line. Pistons are currently up 6, but it'd be nice to get that fourth on Shaq, who has thus far managed to avoid being called despite swinging his ass around like a wrecking ball. The pace of the game right now favors Detroit if they can stay under control -- Ben can beat Shaq down the court at will, and the fast break opportunities have been there for him as a result.
3:33 -- The downside to the aggressive doubling on Wade and the challenging of Miami shots is that Haslem is getting free for the o-boards. It is a tradeoff that has thus far been well worth it.
2:00-ish -- Lindsey comes down and jacks up the disgusting 3 with waaay too much time left on the clock. The only reason he isn't getting a Code Red in the lockerroom is that Dyess managed to grab the carem and kick to Tay Tay for a trifecta, the Pistons' first of the game (now 1-10).
1:14 -- Udonis looks like someone...I'm thinking Sheryl Swoops, or one of those other WNBA players with Predator-style braids.
0:52 -- Jim Gray says nothing worth listening too. He makes me wish Reggie Miller's big sis was reporting from the sidelines tonight. That's no compliment to Jim, trust me.
0:15 -- Dyess hits a jumper, and the new pregame tradition will be to bash him about the wrists with blunt objects; apparently it helps.
End of Q3, and the Pistons have managed to double their halftime lead. If they continue to play tight D and take care of the ball, they should be able to grind this one to a halt. By the way, you know those guys who, when playing pickup football, dive for balls that are clearly within reach? -- or outfielders who jump for fly balls even though they are chest high? Dwyane Wade is the equivalent on the basketball court -- a great player, no doubt. But methinks he tries to make it look harder than it is. Back to Matt to bring home the W. I'll have some thoughts postgame.
OK, start of the Dwyane Wade quarter, er, the fourth quarter.
10:45 -- Walker to Shaq for the alley-oop. The Heat open the fourth with four quick points, Detroit still up 71-69.
8:52 -- Mr. 4th coughs up the turnover -- "only" four for Wade on the night. I wouldn't mind seeing two or three more of those the rest of the way, just enough for people to notice and talk about when they describe what was different when Detroit pulls out the win.
7:15 -- McDyess hits from his usual spot on the wing -- he's scored 10 points in 15 minutes on 5-5 shooting. You gotta love that guy.
6:56 -- Ben sends Wade to the line, where he misses both shots. It was only Ben's second foul of the game -- the fact he stayed clean for the first three quarters is really helping out now.
6:23 -- Antoine Walker followed a Chauncey airball with an offensive foul, clearing with his off arm while driving to the basket. Oh, that's illegal? Could someone make sure LeBron James gets the memo?
5:54 -- Wade takes an extra step (and is actually called for it) -- that's another turnover! I couldn't have scripted it any better.
4:56 -- Wade just banks in a two, hitting the glass well above the painted square. Maybe it's me, but I really think this guy might have a feel for the game. Pistons up by three, 79-76...
4:27 -- ... until Tay hits a three! Big, big play. Pistons up six with less than five to play.
3:28 -- Shaq finally hits after Miami gobbles up approximately 38 offensive boards on this possession. Detroit needs to hit the boards, the game is too tight to give up so many second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) chances.
3:26 -- Gary Payton commits the Heat's fourth team foul on Chauncey, giving Flip the chance to pull Ben for McDyess. No Hack-A-Ben tonight, Riles.
3:10 -- Rasheed actually hits a pair of foul shots... on the same trip to the line, no less. He's been marginally better than Ben this postseason. (OK, better than "marginal," but not much better than 50/50)
2:50 -- On the other end, Shaq misses both of his free throws. Mike Breen says Miami is 6-for-18 from the stripe tonight. Nice. Very nice.
2:16 -- With Ben out of the game, the (increasingly desperate) Heat turn to the Hack-a-McDyess strategy... except he makes them both. Detroit up nine, 87-78. Should have worked on paper -- Antonio was a 50-something percent shooter in the regular season, but karma was on his side -- no one wants to see that ugly Hack-a-Anything basketball.
1:33 -- Coming back from the timeout, ESPN makes the unfortunate decision to showcase Jake Gone Wild! It's just so... wrong. Please people, don't encourage him.
Miami can't find an open man, five-second violation. Chauncey takes about 15 seconds off the clock before getting fouled with the Pistons up 11... 12... 13. Ice water in his veins, people. He's a bad man. My prediction of a double-digit Pistons win is looking good.
And... game. Pistons 91, Heat 78.