By Pardeep Toor
You know how sometimes you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, hair wet with sweat and an inappropriate sticky mucus on your neck (Nickolodeon slime from the playground earlier) and heart trembling out of your chest with a mix of fear like Mike Tyson is chasing you or the world is about to end?
That happens to me about twice a week (luckily I never get to sleep with a girl) but the only thought in my mind is this:
The urge to scream overcomes my dry midnight vocal chordsl: "Sheed! Nooooooooooooo!!) Don't leave him!" After all, Horry had only exploded for 18 points in the second half and was 4-of-5 from three point line before the shot - no need to guard him.
I've seen that last play countless times and have replayed it in my head about a bajillion other times and each time I stumble into despair - thinking about how things would have been different if Sheed didn't leave Horry - if Horry didn't make that shot ... everything would have been different.
The Pistons would have won their second consecutive championship (eventually in San Antonio - they were better) matching the Bad Boys era teams while consecutively decimating the Western Conference strangle-hold on titles by the Lakers and Spurs in consecutive years.
The Eastern Conference championship games are great but this entire era would have been remembered different had "that shot" - the one we shall no longer name - not gone on in.
Maybe Larry Brown stays, they win a third title, Darko becomes a superstar like we all wanted (needed?) him to be ...
Sidenote on Darko: Is he the only big man to provide company to three other first overall picks? 2004-05 he sat on the bench with Derrick Coleman, last year he played with Kwame Brown in Memphis and before that with Dwight Howard in Orlando. There's no doubt that he will be teamed up with Joe Smith on some team in the near future so that will make four former number one picks. Darko might be the greatest wingman of all-time. I wish Glenn Robinson was still in the league.
Remember Me? Let me introduce you to 37-year-old Derrick Coleman. Coleman totaled 50 minutes in five games for the Pistons scoring nine points (3-of-14) and grabbing 15 rebounds during that time. In Coleman's defense, a crane accidentally dropped a vending machine on his already aching back before the season started. He would have been fine had he not scavenged and eaten all the free Butterfingers after the accident. That extra weight killed him.
Another notable deserves props here. How about straight shootin' Smush Parker? Sixteen games including a 14 point, 6 assist explosion in 38 minutes against Charlotte in November.
I think it's important to remember how close the Pistons were in game 7. It was straight up gonads for them to have a chance to win on the road like they did. Down only six with two minutes to go the following sequence takes place: Billups misses the free throw, Horry flops, Ben Wallace steal, Billups make - four point game with a 1:19 left - phantom foul on Sheed (got arm really late), Duncan makes one free throw - Billups blocked by Bowen (weird), Manu and his flowing locks make a layup. I just watched it again and I swear I thought the Pistons were going to win it this time ... five years later. This is easily my favorite NBA finals.
It still hurts but it's important to remember the pain. Love divides but pain unites. Think about it. Just think about it.
Awards: Ben Wallace, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA Third Team, NBA All-Defensive First Team. Tayshaun Prince NBA All-Defensive Second Team, Chauncey Billups NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
And that was the end of a championship caliber Indiana Pacers team. Done and done.
Results: Team finished first in the Central Division (54-28) and second overall in the East. Beat Philadelphia in the first round in five games, Indiana Pacers in the second round in six games, Miami Heat in the conference finals in seven games and lost to the Spurs in the finals in seven games.
Best Boxscore: The ladies loved Carlos Delfino and for some reason so did I. Maybe it was the way he chewed gum on the court (a staple) or his perfectly gelled hair or his inability to drive to the hoop, whatever it was, nobody was happier than me when my beloved Raptors snagged him in 2007 for a second round pick. I thought it was the steal of the off-season. It was not.
I'm sure the Pistons felt the same exuberance for Delfino when he caused a mini-earthquake by going for 17 points in a game in November. "Mehmet Okur who?" cried Pistons fans everywhere.
Sidenote 2: I think the Dumars should do everything he can to sign Paul Millsap this off season just to stick it to Utah for stealing Okur from the Pistons after their championship. If Boozer doesn't opt-out, the Jazz are screwed. I've written about this before.
Delfino didn't quite turn out like Dumars had hoped. Kendrick Perkins and Josh Howard turned out to be just a little better.
Lasting Memories: This is my all-time favorite Pistons team because of the swag. The attitude. The ego. This team was probably equally annoying to national fans as the Boston Celtics have been to us this year (Karma - KG done for the playoffs). But they backed it up.
They went into Miami and won game 7 by first busting up Dwyane Wade's ribs and then pulling away in a tight fourth quarter. They fell down 0-2 to the Spurs in the finals, losing by 15 and 21 in the first two games, they came back and took the next two at by 27 and 31 points respectively. That's bad ass.
Even after the devastating loss in Game 5 (see above), they went back to San Antonio and beat the Spurs by nine in game 6 before finally bowing out in game 7.
More impressive - they did it all with six guys. Hunter played spot minutes at the end of quarters but other than that, it was the starting five with 'Dyess all the way through and they didn't care, didn't complain, they just kept ballin' and sincerely deserved the championship for it. They are still the champs in my mind.
Up Next: Dwyane Wade gets a title without the benefit of any calls from officials.