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Down, but not out

Wow. That game was ... wow.

As Henry Abbott pointed out on TrueHoop, Pistons fans are no strangers to suffering through heartbreaking Game 5 losses. But you know what? I'll take this. This feels different.

Believe me, there's plenty of frustration and a tinge a regret for the missed opportunity, but really, nothing has changed: the Pistons are still alive, and they still need to win twice.

Yeah, they have a smaller margin of error, but that's overrated; had they won last night and instead lost Game 6 at the Palace, Boston would have all the momentum, fans would be jumping off tall buildings and everyone would be ripping the Pistons for backing into a Game 7. Instead, playing in a Game 7 will be a feel-good story ... and after watching the Celtics fall apart in the fourth quarter for two straight games, you know there will be a Game 7.

Boston has been wilting under pressure, and you have to believe they'll crack in front of a frenzied Palace crowd. What, do you expect Doc Rivers to rescue them? Not a chance -- he's as big of a reason as any why the Celtics have already played 20 games in the playoffs.

I loathe the idea of relying on past performance to carry a team into the future, but as Chauncey Billups points out, this is where experience actually matters:

"Our experience of being in so many of these situations will help us and being in front of our fans will help us," Billups said. "Those are the things you've got to lean on when you are facing elimination. We're going to scratch and claw and do the things we've been known to do and try and get back here (to Boston) for Game 7."

A lot of things went wrong last night -- getting killed on the boards 42 to 25 being my biggest gripe -- but a lot of things went right. Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups have officially busted their slumps; Rodney Stuckey continues to improve in leaps and bounds; Lindsey Hunter is playing like he wants to earn his entire salary in one series. Those things bode well for Game 6.

And while there are still some serious questions -- will Rip Hamilton play? why is Tayshaun Prince passing up open shots? -- I'm feeling surprisingly confident. Maybe I just don't want the season to end, or maybe the window just seems to be open wider than a year ago thanks to the young bench, but I think there's more to it.

After watching this team battle and claw their way back in the fourth, I can't even fathom losing on Friday -- not one bit.