If this is the Pistons turning it on, I hope they never find the off switch. For the second straight game, a team resembling the one that won 59 regular season games took care of the ball, and business, and stopped the upstart Sixers 98-81 to take a 3-2 lead in the first round series.
The Piston starters were lights out the minute the lights came on at the Palace. Chauncey Billups (21 points, 17 in the first half, 12 assists) and Rip Hamilton (20 points, 10-17 from the floor) were both aggressive from the tip, shooting a combined 9-11 from the field for 22 of the team's 35 first quarter points, while the team shot a collective 79%. A 16-2 run helped Detroit to get out to a 14 point lead at the end of one. But from what I've seen in this series, I knew it wasn't enough and there was too much game left to play.
Luckily the trend carried over into the rest of the team as well. Rasheed Wallace (19 points, 3-4 from the arc, 6 rebounds, 6 blocked shots) played equally effective defense on both Samuel Dalembert (2-4, 4 points) and Reggie Evans (1-3, 3 points) and it was the Pistons who were getting the loose balls and lucky bounces but still wen to the foul line only half as much. Philly's 24 attempts double Detroit's and they are now a +46 for the series. The difference tonight was an aggressive offense to match the defense, as the Pistons shot 58% for the game compared to 42% for the Sixers.
Tonight, Andre Iguodala was his old self, scoring 21 points on 8-13 shooting, grabbing 5 rebounds and dropping 6 dimes but still struggling with turnovers with a team and game high six. It was his supporting cast, who had been coming up so big throughout the first four games that went on a downward spiral. Three second calls and lane violations on free throws to missed lay-ups on the few fast breaks they got, demoralized the team as the game wore on. Andre Miller shot 5-17, finished with 13 points and had only 3 assists. Willie Green again labored from the field at 3-10, scoring 8 points and Thaddeus Young, who had been such a giant spark for the club was a mere flicker at 3-9 and 8 points. Louis Williams came off the bench to shoot 6-9 and score 16.
Tayshaun Prince continues his offensive evolution in the playoffs with 17 points and Jason Maxiell seems to be thriving in the starters role, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds and blocking 3 shots. McDyess wasn't exactly elated about becoming a starter after the departure of Ben Wallace and seems to be better suited for coming off the bench, who Tuesday night simply provided a blow for the starters, who outscored the Sixers alone 83-81.
Former Piston and Michigan Wolverine Chris Webber spoke out on TNT Sunday night about the Pistons not showing Flip Saunders they same respect they did Larry Brown, which I actually agree with.
“No respect to Flip, but it doesn’t matter what Flip says,” Webber said during halftime show of Game 4 Sunday. “They come from a coach like Larry Brown, they look at him like he’s the epitome of basketball, and they feel like they can wait until the last game or the championship, and they won’t lose. They are really nonchalant, and that’s why I felt we lost last year.”
But since that halftime chat, Flip is obviously happy with the results and the team has been what we have seen all season long, and hope to continue to see throughout the playoffs.
“I talked at halftime, no one else talked at halftime, and I was happy with the way the team responded.”
Detroit has a chance to end the series Thursday in Philadelphia. The Orlando Magic, who closed out the Toronto Raptors 4-1, await the winner with center Dwight Howard, who is the first since Wilt Chamberlin to have three games of 20 points and 20 rebounds. Boston is now in a dogfight as well with Atlanta, who has tied up their series 2-2 and a game five against a Celtics team that escaped suspensions. They should have lost Kevin Garnett due to an altercation with Zaza Pachulia in which he pushed off a referee trying to play peacemaker.