This is what I call reality TV.
The Detroit team that played Wednesday night was a far cry from the mess that was in the Palace last Sunday. And although they looked as if they were pressing a little early in the game, it was the sense of urgency that got the job done from the opening tip until the final buzzer as when they got up by double digits at the half this time, they kept the foot on the gas and evened this series up heading into Philadelphia at a game apiece.
Rasheed Wallace (16 points) continued his torrid play as the Sixers still do not have a viable plan to handle him. The big difference in game two was the increased intensity on defense from the start. In game one, Philly opened each quarter with little runs of 4-0, 6-0, and 8-0 to get things rolling. In game two, not happening. Everything was contested from crossing the time line to each and every pass and held the Sixers to a 40% game from the floor.
What Went Right
The starters weren't about to have a repeat of Sunday's lackluster first quarter. Although Chauncey Billups would not score in the first half, he would get his team mates good looks and make sure there would not be any let downs. Rasheed Wallace opened quickly with 11 points in the first quarter, 13 in the first half, while Tayshaun Prince got aggressive along with Rip Hamilton and took the ball to the hole, tallying 14 and 10 first half points respectively. Antonio McDyess found his jumper early (finished with 16) and got active on the boards (game-high 12 boards) and by the half, the Pistons had four starters in double figures and a 17 point edge.
The Pistons finished with a 26-12 advantage in assists, which speaks to the extra pass and ball movement. Though Billups would finish with 9 points, they came in a five minute stretch in the third quarter, consisting of two 3's and a three-point play the old fashioned way in leading the team to a 28-18 third period. Rip, much more active coming off screens and making shots, led the club with 20 points to go with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Prince finally shrugged of the tentative play and added 16 while holding Sixer star Andre Iguodala to a 1-9 shooting night.
What Went Wrong
While the Pistons began the game much better, they still had sloppy moments of turnovers and mistakes. If it were not for Philly's poor shooting, they could have very well been in the game, at least early. They stayed within reach at 6-8 points for much of the quarter but outside of Andre Miller's 11 first half points, the team's frustration grew and matters only got worse for them. Reggie Evans had another strong game off the bench with 13 points, 11 rebounds with 6 on the offensive glass. Louis Williams scored 17 while youngsters Thaddeus Young and Rodney Carney each tallied 11.
Detroit shook things up by running some full court press and falling back into a zone. This works slowing the ball up the floor, but whenever the Sixers would persist and insist they get to the rim, the Pistons always seem to be burned by the backdoor lay-up. Using the scheme to shake things up I understand, but sticking with it for any length of time would be a mistake. Came in and closed things out in garbage time, but their collective plus-minus figures was a -7.
How We Won
Defense, defense, and more defense. Willie Green, solid in game one, was 2-8 from the floor. Samuel Dalembert was 1-6, Louis Williams 4-12, and A.I. was non-existent. They got the Sixers down and kept them down. The turnovers and offensive rebounds Philadelphia forced could not be capitalized on and the Pistons kept their fast break virtually invisible. Jason Maxiell continues to shine with super-human effort and kept possessions alive with hustle. I still like the idea of him starting over McDyess, but its tough to knock Antonio when he shoots 8-14.
Game three is Friday in Philadelphia at 7:00 PM. With the win tonight, the Pistons assure themselves a game five back at the Palace. What I hope is that the wake-up call has been placed and the Pistons now have one single gear. The team that played Wednesday is the one that should meet the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. One step at a time though, as just as the Sixers came out firing in game one, they are returning home and will be a tough out.