Pistons-Celtics: Detroit Discards Golden Opportunity 106-102, Now Down 3-2

Mick MillerAnalyst IMay 29, 2008

I'm not ashamed to say that watching the Pistons is making me physically ill. Can't sleep, makes me grumpy, all of it.

From one game to the next, a great performance followed by a shot in the foot. After a great win at the Palace in game four, the Pistons came back to the Garden for game five and immediately fell back into placing themselves in peril by losing a winnable game 106-102.

Let's face it: getting down 17 points is not healthy. Coming back to make it a one point game with a chance to win is admirable, but if it’s a loss, what does it matter?

You have to give the Celtics credit for holding on because it's what good teams do at home. Detroit blew so many opportunities during game five that you begin to believe they can't help themselves. For a group that has played in so many playoff games—more than any other team—you cannot believe some of the stupid mistakes that are made. Their passing can make a grown man cry.

Rip Hamilton (25 points, six assists, six turnovers), for all of the clutch baskets he has made throughout this series, is turning the ball over and at some of the worst possible times. Just as many NBA players, he believes he is fouled after every play and stops to complain about it instead of getting his tail back down the floor. His frustration began to spill over last night and it hurt the team.

Rasheed Wallace (18 points, six of nine from three, three blocks) is a passionate player and one of the most talented you'll find. Instead of imploring his teammates to get him the ball down low, he complains about fouls that aren't called and what it's gotten him is one technical away from a suspension. There simply comes a time when you have lay back because you aren't going to help your team on the bench, suited up or otherwise.

Chauncey Billups (26 points, six assists) is back to making big shots, but is making some poor decisions as well at times. Early in the first quarter after it was clear he was shooting well, a drive through the lane for a clean lay-up became a "why on earth" pass back to the perimeter that resulted in a turnover. Shoot the ball; it's a layup!

He and Hamilton both brought them back in this game, but my point is that every moment is crucial and smarter play throughout the game could mean a win instead of a loss.

Tayshaun Prince has moments, and they are becoming fewer and fewer in this series. Jarvis Hayes was again glued to the bench and without Prince providing at least some offense, the Pistons are doomed. He is playing good defense on Paul Pierce (five of 11 FGs, 16 points, six assists), but has little to offer on the offensive end. He looked to be passing up open shots late in the game, proving his confidence is waning.

Ray Allen is officially back and the Pistons should have capitalized on the Celtics before this happened. His 29 points (16 in the pivotal third period) and five of six from the arc have sent notice to Detroit that the headaches just got worse for them.

Kevin Garnett's clutch shooting all night long kept the Celtics in position, as he beat the shot clock four separate times with buckets, demoralizing the Pistons as they play excellent defense for nearly 24 seconds each time. He would finish with 33 points.

The back breakers in game five were the "Little Two." While Rajon Rondo has been on a roller coaster ride with his minutes and shooting poorly (when he decides he should shoot), he came up with 13 big assists and four steals with only one turnover and proved to be the better option against the Piston pressure than veteran Sam Cassell.

Center Kendrick Perkins had a double-double by the end of first half would finish with career playoff highs of 18 points and 16 rebounds.

Antonio McDyess came up horribly in game five with four points, five rebounds, and three turnovers before fouling out. He, like the team, played an excellent game four only to fizzle without much cause by the Celtics. He simply stunk. Theo Ratliff also played horribly and his offensive game was non-existent, making him a poor choice to fill in for McDyess.

The games are so close that head coach Flip Saunders doesn't believe he has to change his rotations. You play the bench so much during the season to have them ready for the playoffs and two of your better defenders, albeit younger players, in Amir Johnson and Arron Afflalo, aren't getting experience or trial by fire.

Early in games where a different look could make a difference and put Boston into a position of making adjustments could be beneficial to the Pistons. Both Lindsey Hunter and Jason Maxiell are making an impact and more fresh legs at this stage may help.

Why third year forward Amir Johnson isn't getting a look early in the game is beyond me. He has the athleticism, length, and nose for the ball that would be just as good a gamble to play Garnett and Perkins than Ratliff right now. With the Pistons getting out-rebounded as hideously as they did in game five (42-25), Detroit needs some second chance points and defensive boards. In most of their offensive sets, the shots are going up with little Piston presence underneath.

Can the Pistons win two straight? Absolutely. Does the team, who believes "if it ain't rough, it ain't right" think their collective backs are far enough against the wall to put two games together? Stranger things have happened and I would not be surprised to see the team back at the Garden for game seven.

Hamilton strained his elbow late in the game and is being monitored closely. We'll need him. Rodney Stuckey (13 points, including a gigantic three to pull them within one) is playing great on offense, acceptable on defense with some lapses, but without the all-time leading playoff Piston scorer, cue the fat lady.

If Detroit doesn't get their act together, they'll be doing dinner theater during the summer while the Celtics move on to the big stage: the NBA Finals.