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Pistons burn the Heat

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See what I did there? I'm hoping a bit of flash video will distract you from the fact I've been derelict in my blogging duties today. In any case, by now you know the Pistons won 91-80 (if you missed it, you can get a feeling for how things went down by checking out the comments here) with Tayshaun Prince turning in one of the best games of his Pistons career by setting a new career-high with 34 points and tying a previous high with 12 boards. He really picked up the slack with Rip Hamilton out (he was at home for the birth of his daughter son -- Richard Clay Hamilton II), and it'll be interesting to see just how aggressive he is tonight with Rip expected back.

The Pistons only had 10 fast break points, but I think it's obvious they're trying to run when they can -- Chauncey Billups in particular took advantage with a handful of assists on the break, finishing with 11 dimes and 19 points.

As for the bench, there's no doubt that it's improved from last year. Jarvis Hayes and Flip Murray didn't shoot the ball all that well, but they did other things well (they each grabbed five boards with a couple of assists, Hayes pitched in four steals). Not surprisingly, the Pistons were a +14 when they were on the court.

None of the Pistons bigs really put up outstanding numbers, but I was definitely impressed at how well they contained Shaquille O'Neal -- as I mentioned this morning at HOOPSWORLD, that performance is reassuring, since that's the kind of matchup that's supposed to give Detroit's small-ish frontcourt fits.

As Chris McCosky points out, Flip Saunders deserves a tip of the cap for that, too:

But credit Saunders, too, for deploying a zone defense at exactly the right time. The Heat had tied the score at 62 with 1:10 left in the third quarter when the Pistons went to a zone and absolutely mystified the Heat.

The Heat missed seven of eight shots to close the third quarter. Then, in their first 12 possessions of the fourth quarter, they managed one basket (five minutes in), two free throws, six missed shots and five turnovers.

"I felt that Shaq (O'Neal) was starting to get into a rhythm," Saunders said. "We started the game trying to trap him in the post and we did a good job of getting the ball out of his hands. But in the second half he started getting his rhythm and our defense was getting spread out too much. We went to the zone to give a different look and with that, we knew every time he had the ball he would have two guys around him."

Pistons 91, Heat 80 box score [NBA.com]

Other recaps:

Krista Jahnke / Detroit Free Press: Prince charming as season tips off
Chris McCosky / Detroit News: Prince leads Pistons to opening win
A. Sherrod Blakely / MLive: Prince nets 34 in opening night win
Natalie / Need4Sheed: Pistons start the season the right way

Random reminder: read my latest from HOOPSWORLD