Tuesday's tilt with the Sonics was an extremely odd game. It started out with the Sonics absolutely torching the Pistons inside -- Chris Wilcox scored Seattle's first eight points of the game and had 11 in the first six minutes. He entered halftime with 17, but then finished with just four more the rest of the way.
The Pistons led by as many 12 in the fourth quarter, but just like how Detroit got burned in the paint early in the game, Ray Allen and Earl Watson almost burned the net down (and successfully whittled Detroit's lead down to one) by shooting from long-distance in the fourth. Allen nailed four of his five three-pointers on the night in the final quarter, but fortunately he never get his team over the hump -- when he got the lead down to one, Chauncey Billups immediately answered with a three of his own.
Allen finished the night shooting 5-9 from three-point land but just 2-15 from "twoville," missing, among a bevy of others, an awkward 13-footer from the side over a defending Rasheed Wallace with five seconds left in the game. That was Seattle's last gasp, as Rip Hamilton rebounded the ball and nailed both of his free throws to seal the game by putting Detroit up by four.
The Pistons finished the night shooting over 50% for the second game in a row. Much of the credit belongs to Chris Webber, who scored 24 points on an extremely efficient 10-for-13 night. Webber also grabbed eight boards with six assists and two steals in 36 minutes.
It's just uncanny how well Webber has been playing. I've been slow to give credit to how solid his jumper has been -- it has an ugly, flat arc that doesn't inspire much confidence -- but he's just been automatic from the top of the key, much like Antonio McDyess from the wing when his shot is on. He's shooting over 72% in his last three games and over 53% since joining the Pistons, which is remarkable for a guy who doesn't rely exclusively on layups and dunks.
You can complain about Webber's defense if you like, but by doing so you'd just be parroting what you heard before his arrival, because honestly, it hasn't been much of a factor, especially when Rasheed is in the game helping out.
Rasheed finished with 15 points, four boards, three blocks and three steals. He rejected Allen from the top of the key in a pivotal play late in the fourth, as well as a handful of other clutch defensive plays. You just had to have a good feeling about his night after watching how he opened the game -- he scored seven of Detroit's first 11 points, including his first points when he narrowly beat the shot-clock by short-arming a three-pointer.
Tayshaun Prince chipped in 18, helping make up for a relatively quiet night from the backcourt as Billups and Rip Hamilton combined for just 24. Billups had just two assists, but Rip made up for it with seven of his own. Billups finished 2-5 from beyond the arc, which is amazing considering his recent long, drawn-out 0-fer stretch which spanned several games.
From the get-go, the Sonics were doing their best to give the game away -- literally. They had seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, and for the most part they were unforced. I'm talking about guys losing their dribble out of bounds and making passes that landed squarely in Detroit's hands -- it was like a poorly coached CYO game out there at times. They finished with 21 turnovers on the night, which Detroit converted into 29 points. That has to be considered the difference in the game, right there.
It was a little disappointing not seeing more out of Jason Maxiell, not just because he played well in 35 minutes on Sunday but also because of how well he played in the first meeting with Seattle this year. But J-Max played just seven minutes on Tuesday, grabbing one rebound but missing both of his shots. Antonio McDyess was his usual (lately) solid self with eight points in 17 minutes, and Flip Murray even managed to impress against one of his former teams with eight points in 16 minutes.
There's no such thing as a "gimmie" in this league, though after going up 3-0 on the current road trip I'm sure the Portland game Wednesday is starting to look like one. I just hope the Pistons remember the game the Blazers stole at the Palace in December. If Detroit can get that game, I won't feel bad at all about the likely let-down coming this Friday against the Suns.