[I'm not letting this take up too much space because I don't want it to overshadow the obvious major storylines, so you'll find most of this post after the jump.]
Chris Webber's debut and Chauncey Billups return were obviously the Main Events on Wednesday, but ESPN's Chris Sheridan couldn't help but notice another storyline that's becoming all too familiar to Pistons fans:
At one point late in the third quarter during a timeout, nearly everyone on the Pistons' bench turned and stared at Sheed as he prematurely broke from the huddle and walked to the scorers' table to await the resumption of play.
Now Wallace has been doing this for years, but on this occasion, judging from the looks on the Pistons' faces, there was more to it. Webber even walked over and said something to Wallace, who replied with a shake of the head and the type of disgusted look you get from someone who doesn't want to be told to calm down or to make peace.
And when the fourth quarter came, Wallace was once again unable to control himself, drawing a technical foul with five minutes remaining for continuing to argue a foul call, ultimately earning himself a seat on the bench for the final 2:27 as Saunders went with a closing lineup of Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, Carlos Delfino, Lindsey Hunter and Tayshaun Prince. That move left a gaping hole in the Pistons' interior defense, and the Jazz exploited it by scoring three of their final four buckets in the paint (where they scored 58 points) to stay ahead the rest of the way.
"You know, we've got to be smarter. We've got a lot of games that we've given points away with technical fouls down the stretch, and we've got to bite our lip. I'd say in most games where we've gotten technical fouls, we've lost. And in games we haven't gotten them, we've probably won. And in close games, you can't afford that. You just have to bite your lip and let it go, and we're not doing that," Saunders said.
It should be noted that Saunders made that comment unsolicited as he closed his postgame press conference.
Wallace did not comment after the game, although he did throw out the word "quagmire" with an f-bomb modifier to no one in particular as the media waited by Webber's locker.
I can't comment on whatever discord exists between Saunders and Rasheed, but you could see the tech coming a mile away. Rasheed fouled Deron Williams with five minutes left in the game, sending him to the line for two. After Williams made the first shot, I'm guessing the ref must have told Rasheed to quiet down because Rasheed loudly replied something about how he was talking to his own teammates. At that point everything was still OK, but then as Rasheed turned to line up for the second free throw he emphatically yelled, "Shit!", which earned him the T. All of this was quite audible on the telecast even with George Blaha and Greg Kelser talking.
A lot of things happened in the final five minutes, and it's just as unfair to pin the loss on Tayshaun missing a free throw with two minutes left as it is for Rasheed picking up a tech with five minutes left. But what's most frustrating is that a missed free throw is just part of the game, whereas a technical is 100% completely avoidable.
I don't know why I'd expect Rasheed to know that by now, but it frustrates me every time and makes me entirely unsympathetic to whatever feud exists between him and Saunders -- if he can just walk away when he's supposed to be listening, why can't he walk away when he's supposed to be quiet?