Things almost boiled over in the fourth when Rashard Lewis wrapped up Theo Ratliff under Detroit's basket. Ratliff shook off the contact, but Lewis drew a technical, as well as an earful from Maxiell. "I wanted to make sure my teammate's okay," he said after the game. "We're all family here, so I let it be known [if they] try to get physical, it's not going to be that easy for them and we're going to fire it back at them."
When asked if the rough play affected the Pistons, Maxiell laughed. "Oh no, not at all," he said. "We're a rough team ourselves. We're going to do the roughing."
As Theo Ratliff explained later, though, he didn't really need Maxiell's help. From A. Sherrod Blakely:
"I told him (Maxiell) to calm down," Ratliff said. "There's no sense in guys coming to my rescue. I mean, that was Rashard Lewis. He tried to foul me hard, but he's a three-man (small forward). It was no big deal."
Shard isn't known to be the most physical player in the league, but it doesn't mean that he doesn't have pride, and he didn't appreciate hearing from someone on Detroit's bench:
Ratliff's comments made their way back to Lewis, who was visibly upset.
"You can have a lot of energy in five minutes a game," said Lewis, referring to Ratliff's limited role. "What's he played? 15 games. Tell him to come out and guard me."
But that's the thing: the Pistons know they have a lot of energy playing five minutes at a time. As Flip Saunders explained during Saturday's post-game press conference, it's literally part of their strategy.
"[The] big thing is we try to send a lot of bodies at him. And we wanted to keep a fresh body on him all the time," said Saunders. "I took Maxey out, I think five minutes, six minutes into the game. Some of the guys on the bench are saying, 'Why take him out?' I said because I want to keep somebody fresh on him, and our guys have to know that they don’t have to play 10 minutes, they can play six minutes and they can go as hard as they can, and hopefully what it’ll do is when you get in the third and fourth quarter, it’ll wear him down."
And as Krista Jahnke explains, that's just what the Pistons did on Saturday:
Maxiell worked the first five and a half minutes on Howard before Saunders subbed him out. Then Rasheed Wallace took over manning up Howard. Later, Antonio McDyess switched onto him, and for 12 minutes Ratliff helped out, too. When Howard put the ball on the floor, the Pistons would occasionally send help, but they battled him for the most part one-on-one.
"We've got so many guys running in there 6-10, big guys stepping in there after them," Ratliff said. "They really can't match up with us."