I have no doubt that Detroit is good enough -- on paper -- to win the East. But for the umpteenth time, the Pistons don't appear to be good enough -- between the ears -- to reach the finals.
How many times does their own complacency and cockiness have to bite them in the rear for them to wake up and bring their A-game seven straight times in a series?
The Pistons' Game 1 loss to Philly on Sunday was just the latest example of them giving away a game because of their tendency to lapse during contests.
As for me, I'm just not buying it. An offensive lapse is not the same as "complacency" or "cockiness." The Pistons didn't stop trying in Game 1, they stopped producing.
We all watched the game so we all have our theories for what happened, but the biggest difference I noticed between last night and the 82 games that preceded it was the sudden change in rotation. (Silly mistakes like missed free throws down the stretch and ill-timed goofing off stick out the most, but for the most part those are flukes; I'm more concerned about why the team didn't blow this game open when they had a chance.)
I can understand tightening up the rotation against a tough playoff opponent, but if a 21-year-old Louis Williams and a 20-year-old Thaddeus Young can handle the pressure of the postseason, I have a hunch the Zoo Crew can, as well. Kevin Garnett made Amir Johnson look silly. Samuel Dalembert and Reggie Evans do not have that ability.
Don't get me wrong, Maxiell played great, but the stretches in which he disappeared would have been better-served going to Johnson. For some reason Johnson's playing time has been a somewhat controversial topic, but there's no denying that the guy brings energy and forces the opposition to think twice about going into the lane.
Does he sometimes commit bad fouls? Yes. But does he sometimes chase down rebounds no one else can get to? Yes. Is he the most athletic player on the floor who goes all out and brings energy and provides a welcome spark? Always.
All season long the development of the bench has been a primary focus of the team, but I'm slightly worried that the coaching staff thinks Joe Dumars had them jump through those hoops simply to preserve the starters for the playoffs instead of, you know, actually giving the team more bullets to use. The same thing happened to Maxiell last season, when he was frequently ignored in the playoffs (he played fewer than six minutes in six of 14 postseason games last year) after proving his worth in the regular season.
I know some of you will write off my complaints as yet another screed hyping up a guy who doesn't deserve it, but this isn't just about Johnson, it's about developing a trust beyond the starting five and/or players drafted in the mid 90's. If you like, you can apply this same argument to Rodney Stuckey, who played 13 minutes on Saturday after averaging 19.5 minutes in February, 19.3 minutes in March and 27.3 minutes in April.
Seriously, check out his game log: since the end of January, Stuckey played 13 minutes or fewer in a game only twice before last night's game. Why change things up for the seventh-seeded, sub-.500 Sixers?
If someone knows the answer, I'd really like to know, and I'm sure guys like Stuckey, Johnson, Jarvis Hayes and Arron Afflalo would, too ...
In any case, here's some other worthwhile recaps from around the web:
- TrueHoop's Pistons-Sixers Bullets (with a cameo from our own LawyerBoy)
- Kelly Dwyer's Behind the Boxscore
- Need4Sheed's Stunned at the Palace
- PistonsNation's Ehh ... What? and The Difference Between Then and Now
- Full-Court Press' Would playing the bench have made a difference?
There are other good ones, I'm sure, but I'm not inclined to seek them out, and I doubt you'd want to relive the game, either.