The Pistons are clearly one of the most battle-tested teams in the NBA ... but it means little if they can't win the battles. They lost another one against the Spurs on Friday, a one-point loss that would be disheartening if it weren't for the fact that they had already spent half the game convincing anyone watching that they weren't going to win the game.
I no longer understand the idea of starting a game "flat" -- it's become the fall-back answer, and it works great because it's a blanket excuse that allows the team from thinking, "You know, maybe we're not a great team."
Oh sure, Detroit can play like a great team now and then, and if I hear the phrase "best starting five in the league" I think I'll get sick, but playing occasionally inspired ball and having talent is only part of being great. You also need to want to win. And the easiest way to win a game is to win every quarter, but the Pistons routinely give away quarters left (Friday's first quarter) and right (Friday's third).
Detroit allowed the Spurs score the first seven points of the game. In much of the country, that's commonly referred to as "digging a hole," but it in Detroit it's just called "playing the first quarter." Sure, the Pistons tried to make up for it in the second quarter by outscoring San Antonio 31-18, but it took a Rasheed Wallace technical (Sigh, No. 18. Hello, one-game suspension!) to light the fire. Wallace scored 15 in the frame but cooled off after halftime, allowing the Spurs to regain momentum with a 26-14 third.
The fourth featured Detroit's inevitable comeback bid (every game has one, even the debacle in Houston on Thursday, as nominal as that was), but that ended on a bad note as Rip Hamilton put on his goat horns with another out-of-character performance at the line. With the Pistons down three with about 11 second left, Rip went 0-for-2, essentially sealing the win for the Spurs. I know Rip has been getting beat up lately and I know he's not happy about not getting respect from the refs, but what's the use in getting calls if you're not going to hit your free throws?
The sad thing is that Rip otherwise played very well: aside from his late-game yips, he shot 8-12 from the field and was one of the few players not jacking up three-pointers. Chauncey Billups shot 3-10 (0-4 from three-ville) but salvaged his day by going 7-7 from the line to finish with 13 points in 25 minutes. Rasheed Wallace shot 8-18 (1-5 on threes) to finish with 21 points and seven boards.
If the Pistons and Spurs were to meet in the Finals (man, that's a big "if" -- I'm taking nothing for granted, just making an observation), I sure hope Friday's game wasn't an indication of how useful Chris Webber will be against the Spurs. He scored three points with two boards and no assists in 22 minutes. Fortunately, Antonio McDyess helped picked up the slack in a whopping 36 minutes, scoring 18 with 11 boards. Flip Saunders only played eight players, so the rest of the bench consisted of Flip Murray (who scored just four points but had eight assists) playing 23 minutes and Carlos Delfino (two points, four boards) playing 20.
On a side note, Spurs blog Pounding the Rock wasn't too fond of Rasheed's catchphrase:
Four times! Watching the game at home no less, and four times I heard Rasheed Wallace say "Ball don't lie" after a missed free throw. In case you are unfamiliar, Old Grey-Spot unleashes his catchphrase after an opponent misses a free throw garnered via a dubious foul call on the Pistons. And Rashkie, much like, well, every Spur except maybe Matt Bonner, finds every call that doesn't break his way quite very fucking dubious. Therefore the ball, out of some need to right the wrongs of this world, starting with one bad call at a time, casts itself asunder. First off, Mr. Wallace, a more grammatically correct statement would be "Ball doesn't lie." And, if you'd be so kind as to humor me, throw a "the" at the beginning. And trying switching it up occasionally: "The ball, being a spheroid of utmost integrity, refuses to allow this transgression to stand."
Secondly, and this may be hard for you to hear Shee-Shee, the ball, uh, it doesn't uh... it's just a ball. It doesn't have the ability to reason, to judge right from wrong, truth from falsehood. It doesn't have hopes or dreams. It does not cry or poop. It never sleeps in. It's not alive, Sheed. I mean, yeah, it can bounce, but that's because it's round, made of elastic material and filled with air. When you throw the ball at the ground it does not make the choice to come back to you Sheedums. It's coefficients of restitution, not affection. PV=nRT, not devotion.
Four times? Makes me wonder how much he was paying attention. And if you're going to poke fun at the guy, how about the fact that his 18th tech earned him his second one-game suspension? Surprised that didn't even get a mention.
In any case, I used to think "Ball don't lie" was funny, and then I grew indifferent, and then it actually started to annoy me. Rasheed may claim he's not yelling it at the officials, but on TV it certainly looks like he's looking right at them. And while that may not be (always) "tech-worthy," it has to grate on them -- it's the equivalent of when you were a kid and you'd hold your hand two inches from your sibling's face, repeating "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" Sooner or later Mom and Dad got mad at your antics and chances are you met the business end of a wooden mixing spoon, even if you didn't technically break the rules.