Without Chauncey Billups, I never gave the Pistons much of a chance on Sunday against the Suns, one of the league's truly elite teams. Detroit managed to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but once Rip Hamilton lost his touch the game fell out of reach. Tayshaun Prince underwhelmed and Rasheed Wallace was a complete liability on both ends of the court for the second game in a row.Is it the flu? Is it lingering ankle soreness? Rasheed says "no." I say, "quit jacking three's (0-7) like there's no tomorrow."
Flip Murray took advantage of Billups' absence to play 38 minutes, but his actual game performance was far less impressive than his box score (18 points, 9-14 shooting, seven assists, two turnovers) might suggest. On offense, he dominated the ball and passed as an afterthought, and on defense he's an absolutely sieve, and a big reason why Steve Nash racked up 35 points.
I have to give Nash sole credit for his 12 assists, though -- he sees the court like no other and routinely makes at least 5-6 outstanding passes that even an elite point guard like Chauncey does maybe once a game. That's not a slam on Chauncey, who I feel is the second-best point guard in the entire league, but Nash is quite clearly head and shoulders above the competition.
I wish the Pistons did more to slow the game down. That's easier said than done against a team like the Suns, but playing some of the bigs for longer minutes might have helped out. Case in point: Antonio McDyess rebounded well (six in 17 minutes), as did Nazr Mohammad (six in 17 minutes). Jason Maxiell grabbed only three boards in 18 minutes but also blocked a pair of shots.
Why not at least play those guys their season average minutes? And why give Dale Davis his first DNP in nearly a month? All of those guys did (or could have done) a good job exposing Phoenix's soft middle. But sadly, Flip Saunders fell into his early-season habit of letting the opposition dictate the match ups.
Carlos Delfino once again played very well: 11 points (5-9 shooting) with a team-high seven boards. He pitched in a steal and an assist. I hate to say, "I told you so" about The Dolphin, but ... wait, I don't mind saying that at all. The guy has skills, and better yet, a knack for showing up at the right place at the right time. The ending of the Pacers game will haunt him a bit longer and he still needs to work on his consistency from quarter to quarter, but it looks like he's playing with real confidence for quite possibly the first time in his entire tenure with the Pistons.
In any event, it seems like the general reaction to this loss is "have patience" -- and I completely agree. The Pistons aren't in a good spot right now, but this may turn out for the best in the long run. It sounds cheesy, but a little adversity now will help the team figure out where they stand in achieving their long-term goals in the playoffs.
Phoenix 108, Pistons 101 box score [NBA.com]