Yeah, some plan. You had us all fooled Detroit.
After a shaky start, the Pistons got the Sixers down by 15 and should have cruised to an easy Game One victory and series lead. Instead they let their foot off the collective throats of the upstart underdogs and were bitten 90-86 in game one at the Palace. With nothing to lose, Philadelphia is about to make things easy for Detroit.
Each quarter, be it the first, second, third or fourth, started the same. Detroit would make sloppy passes and commit turnovers and the Sixers would score the first 4-8 points of each period.
The Pistons would eventually get the ball rolling on both ends but would often make the game closer and more difficult than need be. These Sixers have taken on the identity of their coach Mo Cheeks in his playing days. Relentless defense and a run-first attitude, beating Detroit back down the floor going each way.
What Went Right
Rasheed Wallace was the best player on the floor on both ends. He was dominant in the low post and made Philly pay for leaving him open at the arc. He blocked a franchise playoff game record-tying seven shots, including three in Philly's last two possessions of the first half. He finished with 24 points and nine rebounds to go along with his seven blocked shots.
The Pistons need to feed Sheed as often as possible when he's on a roll like that, but they don't.
Jason Maxiell could not be stopped nor contained. He flew off the bench to garner a double-double with 12 points (6-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds (six were offensive).
Philadelphia, second in the NBA this season in offensive caroms, simply couldn't deal with Max's energy and relentless pursuit. Theo Ratliff came in and blocked two shots in the clutch as coach Flip Saunders shortened up the bench compared to the minutes the Zoo Crew had been playing.
The team kept the league's 3rd best fast-break scoring team in check and beat them in the offensive rebound category.
What Went Wrong
The Pistons shot well in the first half and held Philadelphia to under 40%. But as the second half wore on, it was the Sixers that made the big shots and the Pistons became porous from the floor. Wallace was no longer sizzling, instead fizzling in the fourth quarter, including a massive miss from the block with the Pistons behind 88-86 and 11.3 left.
"I missed shots in that fourth quarter that I should have made," Sheed said. "I'm going to put this one on me."
Chauncey Billups, normally infallible from the line, missed two of three late in the game and shot a measly 3-9 from the field, finishing with 14 points and only 4 assists.
He, much like Andre Iguodala, spends much too much worrying about calls that don't happen instead of what is going on in the game. Veteran players should get a feel for how a officiating crew are calling a game and adjust, not try to adjust the refs themselves. Instead of hustling back, players are trying ask questions about calls and complain, and it hurt each team on numerous occasions Sunday.
It is time for Antonio McDyess to return to the sixth man role he occupied when he first arrived in Detroit. Although the score book shows only two turnovers, that is a mirage. He makes bad passes that result from bad decisions. He tries to dunk tips and rebounds that he can no longer reach, instead of pulling them down and laying them in. He shot horribly (2-9) and instead of shortening up (although he missed lay-ups too), he kept firing the jumper when the team did not have the luxury of allowing him to shoot out of his slump.
Maxiell should be the starter at power forward, period. As a matter of fact, it was Max that returned to the game, with his 4 fouls, for Ratliff, not McDyess.
Richard Hamilton shot 5-17 and turned the ball over four times. He is another Piston who simply lazily makes his passes and has them tipped or stolen by the energetic Sixers. You simply cannot make assumptions against Philly, they are playing defense for 48 minutes and 24 seconds of each shot clock. Tayshaun Prince seemed to shy away from the game's physical nature and was a non-factor, although he did help keep Iguodala from getting on a roll, forcing him into a 4-15 night from the field.
The bench, who had played so brilliantly down the season's stretch, did nothing outside of Maxiell. Rodney Stuckey went scoreless as did Jarvis Hayes, each missing their lone field goal attempts while Ratliff had a paltry two rebounds. They did not defend well and had to give way back to the starters sooner than the team would have liked.
How They Won
I still can't fathom if this was a case of the old Pistons not playing with urgency, or if Philly simply imposed their will. The Pistons had a lead they should have not relinquished and the Sixers were there and battling until the very end.
Andre Miller (20 points, 11 in the 4th, 6 assists, and a key offensive put-back in the fourth that gave them their first lead since the 1st quarter 78-77) was outstanding in taking over the game in a scoring role and both Thaddeus Young (10 points, 8 in the first quarter) and Reggie Evans (11 points, 14 rebounds, and a shot-clock beating jumper from near the top of the key late in the game) provided major intangibles and solid play. Detroit native Willie Green sparked the team's second half comeback with 9 of his 17 in the third quarter.
Game Two is Wednesday at the Palace and the Pistons' backs are already against the wall.
"We've got to fire back on Wednesday," Flip Saunders noted. "It's a must-win game now."
The Pistons had their chances, and usually close out these type of games. Missed free throws and bunnies and untimely turnovers littered the game, especially late. Sunday, it was the Sixers who were clutch, and Detroit left with the blown save. As if the Tigers' struggles aren't enough these days.