In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Detroit Pistons once again displayed the maddening inconsistency that has come to define them. The Pistons had everything going for them.They had been, for the most part, playing well ever since their first round struggles with the Philadelphia 76'ers.
The Pistons' leader, Chauncey Billups, appeared to have returned to form after struggling in Game 1, which marked his return from a hamstring injury. They had just handed the Boston Celtics their first home loss of the playoffs, and they had done it convincingly.
All indicators pointed to the Pistons coming home and dominating the Celtics, who had yet to win a road playoff game. So what did the Pistons do?
They blew it.
The Pistons gave the 233'rd straight sellout crowd in the Palace a game to forget, something that has become an all too common event for Detroit fans. Now they look to tie the series, and set the stage for another victory in Boston.
Obviously, Detroit needs a greater contribution from Billups, who scored only six points on six shots. Billups was not even on the floor for most of the Pistons' second half comeback attempts, with coach Flip Saunders opting instead for hard-nosed rookie Rodney Stuckey, who turned in another brilliant performance, scoring 17 points in 28 minutes, while getting to the free throw line ten times.
Joe Dumars built his team to be able to overcome an off game from one of its core players though, and the Pistons showed they can win without Billups in the Orlando series, in which Stuckey also played well.
The difference in Game 3 was rebounds. The Celtics outrebounded the Pistons by 16, an astounding margin. The C's 44-28 advantage on the glass was complemented by their 14 offensive rebounds, roughly one for every two-and-a-half misses.
The Pistons took four more shots than the Celtics, probably due to their five fewer turnovers. However, the offensive rebounds resulted in easy shots for Boston, and contributed greatly to their 46 percent shooting.
In order to win Game 4, the Pistons must cut down on the Celtics' easy looks, which they also allowed in the form of unguarded alley-oops and dump offs for open dunks. They also need much better contribution from their starters, only two of which reached double figures in the third game.
Once again, the Pistons will make everyone wonder who the imposters in their jerseys were on Saturday, by beating the Celtics at home.