Pistons-Celtics: Detroit Pistons Implode in Fourth Quarter, Drop Series

Mick MillerAnalyst IMay 31, 2008

Another year, another Eastern Conference Final defeat. The Celtics go on to meet the Lakers in the finals, something the league is wetting themselves over.

The Pistons are done for the summer, and the staff is preparing for the NBA Draft.

You had to get the feeling that even when Detroit mustered a 10 point cushion in the fourth quarter of their 89-81 game six loss to the Celtics that it wasn't nearly enough.

And the 23-8 Boston run reaffirmed those fears. The fleeting moment of hope you may have had should have disappeared by the next commercial break. The Pistons are creatures of comfort, their own.

They should be a team on the coast because most of the times they get there, but when you run in sand, you fall back two steps for every three you take.

What happens now? It’s the morning after, and after posting the league's second best record, there have never been more questions to be answered. Every area should be addressed.

The Sixers should have been routed. The Magic series should have been a little easier. The Celtics should have been beaten. The old Piston adage of "if it ain't rough, it ain't right" is over and done.

It’s an excuse. And this team leans on excuses too much. Where does Joe Dumars go from here?

Fire Flip

Anyone who has the sense of sight can see a major problem here. Nice regular season record, but a history of inadequacy in the playoffs.

You would think with the Pistons' veteran core that there would be little for a coach to say. That may be true, but there has to be a respect for the coach and in Detroit, it’s nonexistent.

In today's NBA with all the in-game access, the locker room, and the huddle, places we were never allowed in the past has opened a window into the dynamic of player-coach relations.

Flip Saunders falls upon deaf ears and has since he got the job. I don't believe I have ever seen an attentive bench or locker room while Flip was handing out a game plan or speech.

All eyes should be fixed on the coach when he speaks. The Pistons don't even pretend like they hear him. How many huddles have we seen Rasheed Wallace or Rip Hamilton talking with an official or another assistant?

Flip's methods and philosophy may be solid, but he commands no respect from the Piston veterans. The inmates are running the asylum.

When Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell were providing a spark and making things happen, the starters had to be reinserted and the walls came crumbling down.

Do you want to go with your best players? Of course you do. But it should be the players who are playing best that game.

Flip's second biggest problem all season was his substitution patterns. With no respect and no consistency, Flip has taken this team as far as he can.

I have read that assistant Michael Curry is the favorite to assume control. With no head coaching experience, who knows if he can garner the respect.

Avery Johnson is out there, but the question is the same about him, but both are defensive minded coaches.

The Roster

After last season's debacle in the Cleveland series, the local papers and media were certain the coach was out of a job, and the roster was going to be blown up. It didn't happen.

Dumars kept Saunders, and they decided they would incorporate the bench a little bit more over the course of the regular season to preserve the starters for the playoffs.

Maxiell became a solid contributor, and Amir Johnson saw his minutes increase.  Both will be entering their fourth year in the league next season.

Add free agent shooter Jarvis Hayes and the depth was vastly improved. Flip decided not to use it in the playoffs.

The draft brought rookie guards Stuckey and Arron Afflalo, who both provided reassurance of having the back court of the future for the club. While Stuckey got the chance to shine in the playoffs, Afflalo sat idly by without complaint and watched.

Johnson and Hayes did as well. It’s safe to say that all will be back next season, but the real question is, what about the starters. Apparently, the bench was merely to save the starters for the playoffs, and it didn't work.

It was painfully obvious the team struggled without Chauncey Billups. He is the captain, has a fresh contract extension, and will be here. He had several clutch plays Friday night and misfired badly on others.

He has the ball in his hands and the power to control what happens on offense. When he was abusing Rajon Rondo time and time again going to the rim, he let up. He passed out of a lay-up.

He worries too much about contact. He should recognize what’s working and go to it. His spot is safe, but his play can use some work.

Rip Hamilton's game has remained unchanged over the last few seasons. He is one of the league's best and most consistent performers. Often times, it’s his passing and defense that come through as his weaknesses.

He can "sell" a call with some of the best of them, but the league is now going to penalize players for such acts beginning next season.

Many times Hamilton is caught out of position in the team's defensive switches, and that helped Ray Allen get it going in games five and six.

What is much worse is his attitude.  He finished a close second to Wallace in team (and league) technical fouls. Like many players, primarily scorers, he complains about nearly every call.

This has sprinkled down to the mild-mannered Antonio McDyess as well.

And what is happening while the complaining is going on? The opposition is racing down the court and scoring. Rip and McDyess will likely stay, but without new leadership and re-commitment, is the team spinning its wheels?

Tayshaun Prince failed miserably the last three games of the Boston series. He is a great defensive player and doesn't need to be an offensive juggernaut but has to be much better than a single digit liability on offense.

His turnover late in the fourth quarter to James Posey after securing a rebound with the team down only four was a back-breaker. His shooting percentage was on a nosedive since the Orlando series. 

After averaging 16 points a game in the first two rounds, he dropped to an uneventful nine. Is he a multi-dimensional player? Yes. Is he a starter? Not so sure anymore.

Wallace is obviously a wildcard. He is wonderfully talented and skilled. Everyone knows what his problem is, his emotions, which may also be his greatest strength. He was late to the team shoot-around and fined.

Inconsequential? Maybe, but not a good sign for game six and not something you expect out of a dedicated team leader. Does he stay or should he go?

You can see where someone would take him on their team and how he would be fired up to play against the Pistons were he jettisoned. Especially when we know he doesn't believe he is part of the problem.


Where does the team go from here? I haven't a clue. I can see where Dumars may stand pat and tweak the roster some more. I do not see how this team moves any further with Saunders at the helm.

Will Dumars allow the players dictate to Flip if he stays? With one year remaining on his deal, I don't see keeping him as a lame duck. It’s safe to say if the Pistons had won the title this season, and extension would be in place.

Keeping the status-quo will only extend the same old problems and standing still will bring the same; standing still at home for the summer and not playing in the finals.


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