With a win on Wednesday in Portland, the Pistons moved to 4-0 on their five-game road trip, already exceeding the expections by a lot of fans. The Pistons were up by eight at halftime and won the game by 12, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any drama in the second half.
The Blazers actually tied the game at one point in the third quarter, which Detroit answered with a 10-2 run. Portland fought back again to come back within two, but then the Pistons put the game out of reach once and for all with a 9-2 run, never allowing the game to get within six points again.
Chris Webber, one day after I touted his extremely efficient shooting, had a rare off night, finishing just 2-8 from the field. Even so, he helped make up for it with eight boards and six assists. Rasheed Wallace, who is now 5-0 against his former team, scored just eight points on 4-10 shooting but also came through with three blocks.
The bench played well, with Antonio McDyess (13 points and four boards) doing his usual thing and Jason Maxiell (three points, six boards, two blocks) doing a little less scoring and a little more of everything else. And, as usual, lately, Carlos Delfino kept up his fine play with nine points and four boards and a steal in 21 minutes.
Considering Detroit won, you might be quick to write off the impact of Lindsey Hunter's absence due to suspension. But when you look at distribution of minutes, it's obvious that he's missed. Rip Hamilton played a game-high 44 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter, which seems ridiculous in a game the Pistons had a firm grip on late.
Carlos Delfino is capable of filling in for Rip, but not when he's already filling in for Tayshaun Prince, which is what he did for the entire fourth quarter on Wednesday. Flip Murray can fill in for Rip, as well, but not when he's already filling in for Chauncey, which is what he did for half of the fourth quarter. As the roster is currently constructed with Will Blalock and Ronald Dupree watching each game in street clothes, the Pistons literally aren't capable of resting Chauncey, Rip and Tay all at the same time.
So how come Saunders doesn't activate Blalock or Dupree? Why have both Nazr Mohammed and Dale Davis active when four other big men are playing in front of them? I'm nitpicking, perhaps, but against an opponent like Portland in which Detroit can have a reasonable expectation to win by a large margin, it doesn't make sense to prepare for resting starters in garbage time.
One of the goals entering the year was reducing the wear and tear of the starters, right? Then how come Chauncey, Rip and Tay are all averaging more minutes per game than last year? Why did this game end with Rip, Chauncey and Rasheed on the floor? Saunders should be looking to sit those guys every chance he gets, especially this late in the year, especially on the second night of a back-to-back on the road and especially with the high-flying Suns still on tap Friday.