By Kevin Sawyer
I had to Tivo the game, so it was fun watching the amateur general managing from the peanut gallery in the last one. So what happened? We won. Why? Here goes.
For all the talk of this team being hot and cold, this was an outstanding defensive effort from start to finish. Having a bunch of nobodies drain 20 footers to close the shot clock is not a sustainable offensive scheme, so a better second half was inevitable. Under ordinary circumstances, the Pistons are up 39-37, and just waiting for their patented third quarter push.
We finally looked for the outside shot. Philly had been packing it in (intentionally or no), and we finally saw the great perimeter passing that allows us to exploit matchups against cobbled-together squads like this. Twice, we saw that little pass around the world until Prince buries an open shot in the corner that invariable makes announcers compliment our unselfish play.
Help defense! We were able to disrupt Philly's dribble penetration by having a backcourt help defender deflect the ball as ball-handler turned the corner. This was a great move, which the Pistons employed to disrupt Duncan’s to-the-basket game in the ’05 Finals. And, um, Willie Green is no Tim Duncan.
Chauncey played the point. He didn’t shoot well, of course, but he finally became more aggressive about setting up the half court sets. As a result, Hamilton was finally able to play off screens and do all those other things that make Rip good. If you want to know if Billups had a good night, add Free Throw Attempts to Assists, and divide by Rip Hamilton’s turnovers.
Tayshaun Prince has been ridiculous. The Sixers don’t have answers for long, athletic players. If only the Pistons had another long, athletic player on their squad. One who could alter shots, grab offensive rebounds, and exploit the defense’s myopic focus on our backcourt players? Sigh, maybe the Pistons should look to the draft. We have a second round pick this year, right?
We finally stopped treating Andre Iguodala like LeBron James. Perhaps the team is still smarting from the slaying at the hands of the LeBrons last year, but the goal isn’t simply to stop one player from hanging 40 on you. The Pistons have been effective to a fault against Iguodala, allowing role players to post big nights. Tonight, they finally let Andre play a bit. In an ideal world, Iggy shoots 11-28, and notches 27 points with 4 assists. If that happens, we win.
We beat them at their own game. Controlling the tempo is something that announcers talk about. It’s gobbledygook. Passing up solid looks because it might allow Philly to run is a stupid idea. Want to keep Philly from running? Knock down your shots and get back on defense. The Pistons play at the slowest pace in the NBA. They don’t need to make a conscious effort to do so.
So to the heart thing. In the first half, I didn’t see a team without heart. I saw a team overthinking and overplaying every single half-court set. Unforced turnovers are the product of nerves, not ennui (ever seen a player dribble off his foot during shootarounds). The Pistons have a nasty habit of getting very tense at inopportune times, which has killed them as much as anything these last few seasons.
So here’s hoping the Pistons get back to their mad defense, three-point shooting, 42 mpg playing selves. This team can win a championship. There is too much talent here for pedantic psycho-analyzing. If the Pistons want to phone in game 5, they may do so, and might even be right to do so… So long as their dialing the right numbers.