Eighty-three percent of teams that win Game Five of a series that is tied 2-2 go on to win the series. The Detroit Pistons will now look to defy those odds after dropping Game Five on the road to the Boston Celtics Wednesday.
The Pistons valiant comeback attempt rattled out of the basket in the form of rookie Rodney Stuckey's late free throw, with the Pistons down by three. Stuckey made the second, but, with less than 10 seconds left, Kevin Garnett was able to seal the Celtics' victory with two of his free throws.
The Celtics survived a solid performance by Chauncey Billups, a barrage of Rasheed Wallace 3-pointers, and several comeback attempts to earn the victory.
However, the key to the comeback was Stuckey, who stood tall among his experienced teammates, chipping in 13 points and hitting a 3-pointer and several free throws late in the game.
Obviously, the game begs a question—can the Pistons still win the series?
It will certainly not be an easy task, with the statistics and home court advantage working against them. But, if any team is capable of the recovery, it's Detroit!
The Pistons are somewhat of an anomaly in the NBA, in more ways than one.
First, they are built as a true team, with four starters that all have similar value to the team. More important to their NBA finals hopes is their ability to step up their play in big game situations. They have often displayed an almost uncanny knack for winning when they need to.
This strategy has come back to bite Detroit in recent years, though. They are obviously a talented team, which they have shown by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the past six years. Most NBA teams would be thrilled by this high level of consistency, but many in Detroit feel that their team has underachieved.
The hole the Pistons have dug themselves into is also magnified by their defeats in Games One and Three of the series.
It was widely thought that the Pistons, which were well-rested after defeating Orlando in five games, had a great chance to steal Game One in Boston, which had just finished two grueling, seven-game series.
After losing that game, but taking Game Two from the Celtics, the Pistons had a great opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead by winning two home games.
This optimism was increased by the Celtics' failure to win a road game in the playoffs to that point. Instead, they fell flat in Game Three, getting beaten soundly in front of a raucus home crowd.
None of that matters any more though, as Detroit cannot afford to lose another matc. Against Cleveland last year, the heavily favored Pistons were defeated by the Cavaliers and LeBron James. This Celtics team is clearly more formidable, having three potential Hall-of-Famers and an impressive reserves corp at their disposal.
That said, the desperate Pistons, who always play best with their backs against the wall, will not lose game 6 at home. That leaves Game Seven in Boston, a game in which, as the cliche goes, "anything can happen".
In a one game series, the cohesiveness of Detroit's 4-man core, who have played together for 4 years, could pay dividends, especially against the Celtics team, whose "Big Three" are going through their first playoffs together.
Pistons in seventh.