By Kevin Sawyer
So, let's go ahead and panic. Sunday's game is the very definition of a must win. If the Pistons win, they are in the driver's seat, simply needing to win home games to advance. If they lose, they aren't going to win the series.
Much has been made of the Pistons heart and attitude. These arguments are not unfair, but the Pistons have also been outplayed, which is scarier. Oh, and Iguodala hasn't had his big game yet. So what should the Pistons focus on to avoid a loss that will certainly signal the end of an era? Here is my humble advice.
Turnovers - Philadelphia is great at playing the passing lanes. They are going to cause turnovers. And yet, the Pistons have been content to let Rip Hamilton (4 TO per game) essentially play the point. Billups needs to assert himself in leading the offense.
Three Pointers - The Pistons are shooting 11-39 against a team that cannot defend the three. Yet Jarvis Hayes has played 22 minutes? One of the great perimeter passing teams in history is suddenly has no idea how to set up a guy for the longball? This IS bad coaching.
Amir Johnson - The Sixers are going to get turnovers. That's fine. You don't get to the playoffs without possessing some abilities. But if those turnovers aren't turning into fast break points, Philly can't win. If only the Pistons had an athletic big man who good get back on defense, alter shots, and change the flow of the game. Amir was born to do damage against a team like this.
Posting up - Chauncey can post up just about anyone on this team. Seriously. If Billups can leverage his size against the cadre of pass-deflectors, it will open up the offense and lower the turnover count. This should allow Sheed to get his groove back.
Chauncey - Dude. I nearly crafted a post with evidence that Billups might just be the greatest point guard in Detroit history. Do you know how embarrassed I would be to have written that post at this point? Chauncey Billups can do the playoffs. His back-to-back 40/37 against the Magic initiated a new era. It's time, dude, it's time.
Lindsey Hunter - There is a time and place for Lindsey Hunter. This is not it. Hunter's defensive game revolves around his potent on-the-ball defense in the half-court set. If the Sixers are resorting to half-court sets, they aren't winning, turnovers or no. Stuckey hasn't been wowing anyone on the offensive end right now, but he is doing the right things by holding onto the ball and getting to the line. He's not perfect, but the Pistons won the whole damn thing with backup guards who couldn't crack 40% from the field OR get to the line.
The entitlement thing - This is all a bit overblown. It is very possible for two seeds to lose to seven seeds. The Pistons have faithfully executed their half-court offense to date. I'm not seeing a whole lot of settling for contested jumpers.
That said, here's where I see the heart issue coming into play. How many inlet passes did the Sixers deflect? If the Celtics had intercept two passes consecutively, you bet your ass the Pistons would change the game plan. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, yes? It is also a fairly apt definition of phoning it in. All the way around, the Pistons are not adapting to the flow of the game. Is that because they figure the same old playbook can beat a weaker team? It's hard to say no.