As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, it's officially time to ponder whether Chauncey Billups is healthy enough to make any kind of sustained impact in this series. I thought he turned a corner in Game 2, but in hindsight it seems more likely that a) Game 2 was a mirage; b) he aggravated the injury in Game 2; or c) some combination of above.
Whatever the case, Billups is intent is playing on. From the Free Press:
"I don't want it to be an issue," he said. "As much as it is, I don't want it to be. The bottom line is I've got to play better. We've got to play better. Whether it's still hurt or not, I've still gotta play through it ... and that's exactly what I intend on doing."
[...] "I think, at this juncture of the season, you can't sit out," Billups said. "I'm ... one of the main leaders of this team. No matter what's going on, I feel like I'm better out there on the court."
He also talked a bit about how he can help if he's not producing:
"(In Game 3), I, personally, didn't do a good job of leading," Billups said. "And that's not just shooting the ball or scoring the ball. I just didn't do a good job of leading. The game got away from us early. I didn't step up enough vocally when guys were missing coverages and things weren't going right.
"When I can't do the things that I'm accustomed to doing offensively, there have gotta be other ways to have a presence. I thought I waited too late yesterday to step up and lead that way."
I don't want to underestimate the importance of on-court leadership, but if it's a given that Billups can't play any better than he did in Game 3, I'd prefer he impart his words of wisdom from the sidelines and let Rodney Stuckey clock 40 minutes of action.
Maybe it won't come to that, maybe Arnie Kander spent Sunday afternoon conjuring black magic on Billups' hamstring, but if things can't drastically improve, I'd rather have that energy on the court early in the game instead of inserted halfway through the first quarter when the Pistons are already facing a double-digit deficit.
Billups was a -25 on Saturday. I know it's misleading to read too much into single-game plus/minus numbers, but in Billups' four stints on the floor, the Pistons didn't score more points than they gave up once.
Stuckey, meanwhile, was a +3. Sure, he had the advantage of not facing Boston's starters 100% of the time, but what if he had? Does anyone think it'd result in a 28-point swing? I don't see it that way.
For what it's worth, Billups isn't completely against swallowing his pride for the greater good ...
Keeping Billups off the floor isn't easy -- or usually smart. But if that's what it takes to beat Boston, he said he'll go along with it.
"The bottom line is we're going to try to win," Billups said. "If that's what that means, then that's what that means."
... I just hope the coaching staff has the guts to make a quick decision, because this team can ill-afford another 27 minutes of nothingness out of the point guard spot. If he's not productive from jump street, give him the quick hook and let him spend the rest of the half on the trainer's table. And if he's still not loose come the third quarter, put him on ice and let Stuckey finish.
Making a bold move now sends the decisive signal that the most productive players will decide this series. Waiting until you're down 3-1 to shake things up reeks of desperation and could very well trigger another meltdown like last year's Game 6. And if Flip Saunders can't recognize that by now, I might have to take back all the nice things I just said two days ago.