Piston Pride shows up…

by June 01, 2006

DETROIT 91 MIAMI 78 Miami leads 3-2
The funeral did seem a little bit early, and the Pistons weren’t about to say goodbye on their home floor. The lasting image from the game is of course Ben Wallace holding his ground and sending Shaq to the floor on a tie-up block. Was it a foul? Maybe. But more important was the message it sent, which is that the Pistons won’t be bullied, and if so they’ve got their own bully, who finally started playing in this series. Ben pulled this act in the Finals last year, not doing much as Detroit fell behind 2-0, then coming to life and hustling like crazy and doing Big Ben things to lead the way in two dominant performances. Or, maybe it was a foul and Shaq will be out for revenge Friday night. Miami was in position to get blown out but kept hanging close. In the first half, Detroit returned to their old gameplan of tightening the proverbial screws on defense and running Rip off of 28 picks on offense. The second half brought more defense, but it was the two non-lottery picks in the starting 5 that did most of the work. Ben, with the message, much improved defense, and doubling his free throw percentage to 50% on 2 of 4. Tayshaun Prince, pretty much the only guy on either team that’s never been an All-Star, scored a game high 29 on 17 shots. Dwyane Wade came back down to earth for a minute with 23 on on less than 70% shooting, a major step down. Antoine Walker couldn’t be that third scorer Miami needed, and Shaq was stuck on the bench with foul trouble for long stretches of the game. Ironically, even with Shaq only taking 5 free throws, the Heat shot a Ben Wallace-esque 6 of 20 from the free throw line. That’s 30%, which is not good. Detroit hit 23 of their 26 free throws. So, that might have had something to do with the outcome. It will be interesting to see how quickly the mass media can go from “Detroit is dead, Flip is to blame, Riley is a genius, Dwyane Wade is Jordan” to “If Miami doesn’t win they’re chokers, Detroit has the heart of a champion, Flip outcoached Riley, it’s blasphemy to compare anyone to Jordan.” I give espn until tomorrow at noon to have a whole panel of experts weighing in. Personally, I think Detroit has always been the better team and they blew it by getting overconfident against Cleveland, and it carried over. They could still pull this out, but now Miami will be desperate too, and I think they’ll close it out in game 6.