Thursday, May 18, 2006

Taming of the Pistons

Respect -- or the lack of it. The Detroit Pistons have always made it known about how they feel.

Rewind to 2005 Eastern Conference Finals. "I don't know if we've gotten the same respect that other champions have, but we use that as motivation," said Chauncey Billups after winning Game 1 against the Miami Heat.

Fast forward: 2006 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals prior to Game 1: "It's his showcase, pretty much," Billups again referring to LeBron James. "We come off playing on NBA TV, now we're on ABC. It isn't because of us."

The innuendos are loud and clear.

Perhaps Chauncey and his band of brothas should start showing some respect to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Because so far, their casual dismissals, and guarantee from Sheed have only turned a 2-0 cushion into a 2-3 deficit.

In Game 5 of the series deadlocked at 2-2, the Pistons came out tentative, without any focus, purpose or urgency demanded by the situation. Playing catch up for most part of the game, they looked clueless and often struggled on their offense. Once Billups, their Mr. Clutch who carried them by scoring 14 second half points, picked up his sixth foul with little more than two minutes to go, they had no one to turn to. The Pistons of old likely would have won this game playing "D" -- their hallmark over the last few years but the new Pistons with their new identity under Flip Saunders appeared confused.

"Our guys have the ability to lock down," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said after Game 2. "As a coach, you hate the term 'Flip the switch,' but there's no question they have the ability to do that."

Turns out that the switch wasn't working last night, at least not in both ways. It was off alright. Drew Gooden, who got into the game after Ilgauskas was fouled out, scored the go ahead basket on a lay up from a nice feed courtesy Lebron James.

A lay up?! You don't allow lay ups in playoffs, not when the score is tied and less than a minute to go. What were you thinking?

I don't know what they were thinking but I know who was watching: Rasheed Wallace from the bench and Kid Rock from the court side.

Now we know the Pistons can lose just fine without a guarantee.

They were talking about a Detroit sweep and how it would make LeBron stronger in the future. Now the Cavaliers are just one game away from making the Eastern Conference finals and if they could, I hope that buries the ghosts of "The Shot" of Michael Jordan over Craig Ehlo forever.

"I ain't worried about these cats, there's no way in hell they beat us in a series", said post-guarantee Rasheed with one foot in his mouth, after a sheed breaking loss in Game 4.

Now facing elimination, Billups reassured the Motown folks that they are not concerned. Funny. Because I know everyone else, who cares for the Pistons enough to want them to win the series is.

I suppose learning doesn't come easy for these cocky Pistons. But if they are listening, I want them to know that there is one guy who always let his game do the talking.

Joe Dumars.

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