The Pistons won in Denver on Friday because of one reason: they dictated the pace of the game. Instead of allowing the Nuggets to run up and down the floor the entire night, the Pistons slowed the game down, ran a deliberate offense and took advantage of Denver's mistakes. It's a simple formula, which makes it all the more frustrating when they deviate from it, but they worked it to perfection last night.
As a result, Denver's two high scorers never took off -- Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, the league's top scorer and fifth-ranked scorer, respectively, were each held under 20 points. Anthony had just 17 points, the result of a 6-21 night from the field, and didn't do his team any favors with a game-high seven turnovers. AI finished with 19 on 5-13 shooting.
Of course, just because the Pistons cruised to a 13-point victory doesn't mean that everything went smoothly. Detroit still shot just 42.7% from the field. Chauncey Billups, who's struggled with his shot immensely lately, finished 6-17 from the field, including 0-5 form three-point range. It's to the point that I'm cringing every time he lets one fly, a reaction usually saved for when Rasheed Wallace jacks up his fifth three in a half. He's getting a lot of good looks, though, so he may as well fight through it. He helped make up for his poor shooting against Cleveland by pouring in 14 assists, but on Friday he finished with just three dimes.
Billups was able to get a couple of high-percentage attempts, though, scoring the first two points of the game on a fast break and coming through with an extremely rare dunk in the third. Even so, Rasheed wasn't impressed:
"We killed him on that Greg Ostertag fingertip dunk," Wallace said. "We've been trying to get him to dunk all year, so I guess he decided to come home to get his little fingertip dunk." ...
"My hops? I can jump better him," Billups said. "I'm 6-3, he's 6-11, [and] barely dunking."
The shoe finally dropped.
Rasheed came through with a rare double-double (17 and 10), but he was also called for his dreaded 16th technical of the season in the second quarter.
Official Bob Delaney called Wallace for the technical with 4:56 left in the second quarter.
After Steve Blake missed the free throw, forward Linas Kleiza grabbed a rebound and missed a tip-in before Wallace got the rebound. As he ran back down the floor, he was still jawing.
"I said what I say all the time with the, 'Ball don't lie.' What I've been saying all year," Wallace said. "Bob thought when I said that I was directing it toward one of his partners out there on the officiating crew, which was not true."
I've come down on Rasheed's incessant yapping with the refs many times in this space, but in this instance, it was just a bad call. Not only has Rasheed has been yelling that in every single game he's played in the past few years, these same referees didn't seem to have a problem with him yelling it Friday before and after he was T'd up. Maybe Rasheed was louder than usual this particular time, but he gave no indication that it was directed at any one official.
If the Pistons had an extra day between games so that the league had more time to review it, I'd imagine the league would have probably reviewed and rescinded this call, but I doubt it's going to happen as things stand right now. In any case, the fact he earned his 16th tech -- and drew the automatic one-game suspension that comes with it -- was inevitable. I just wish for Rasheed's sake that he could have gotten a little more for his money than a ticky-tack whistle from a sensitive ref.
There's also a bit of confusion amongst some fans regarding what happens after the 16th tech, perhaps because Pistons fans are the only ones in the league that have had to seriously consider the consequences (though Suns fans may want to learn up). But Rasheed will draw another one-game suspension for every other tech from here on out, meaning his next one will come with his 18th, and then his 20th, etc. With 22 games left, I'm thinking there will be at least one more, maybe two, of these to come.
As a fan, I feel like this probably should bug me, but it doesn't. Maybe it's because we've seen it coming the last couple of years, or maybe because I think a little more time off to rest before the playoffs is a good thing. The timing sucks with Lindsey Hunter already being out, but I don't think that's nearly as big of an issue as it looks on paper considering they don't play the same position.
And like I noted before, Jason Maxiell is starting to show a nice rapport with some of the starters, especially Rip Hamilton, so this might actually be beneficial down the road. The Pistons tanked the three games Rasheed missed last week, but Sunday's game is against the Clippers, a sub-.500 team the Pistons already annihilated once this year.