Real Sixers-Pistons first round preview

by April 18, 2008

By Michael Tillery

(7) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (2) Detroit Pistons

Game One – Sunday, April 20th – Philadelphia at Detroit, 6 p.m.
Game Two – Wednesday, April 23rd – Philadelphia at Detroit, 7:30 p.m.
Game Three – Friday, April 25th – Detroit at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Game Four – Sunday, April 27th – Detroit at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
*Game Five – Tuesday, April 29th – Philadelphia at Detroit, TBA
*Game Six – Thursday, May 1st – Detroit at Philadelphia, TBA
*Game Seven – Saturday, May 3rd – Philadelphia at Detroit, TBA

Pistons Leaders

Points: R. Hamilton 17.3
Assists: C. Billups 6.8
Rebounds: A. McDyess 8.5
Steals: C. Billups 1.3
Blocks: T. Ratliff 1.9
FG% J. Maxiell .538
3P% C. Billups .401
FT% C. Billups

Sixers Leaders

Points: A. Iguodala 19.9
Assists: A. Miller 6.9
Rebounds: S. Dalembert 10.4
Steals: A. Iguodala 2.1
Blocks: S. Dalembert 2.3
FG% T. Young .539
3P% A. Iguodala .329
FT% L. Williams

Season Series: 2-2

Pistons 83, 76ers 78
Philadelphia 101, Pistons 94
Philadelphia 83, Pistons 82
Pistons 86, Philadelphia 78

Look, there’s really not much you can say about the Pistons we all haven’t heard before. They’ve been in the Eastern Conference Finals four consecutive years and it would be a tremendous upset if this year something changed and the the fellas from the D were rockin’ bucket hats fishing in Lake Michigan before the NBA’s version of the Final Four tipped off. I have Boston winning it all because of the big three, This is the only team I feel that could handle Boston and it’s based on games played together in when it mattered most. They are not going out like they did last year.

MT: Chauncey, what are you going to do to get over the hump this year?

CB: “We just gotta stick to the script, follow through with the game plan, be aggressive every night, play the defense we are accustomed to playing and that will lead to a real successful playoff run.”

MT: Aaron I know you are not that far removed from college basketball, but do you think the playoffs are going to give you a level of excitement similar to the tournament?

AA: “I haven’t experienced the playoffs before so I can only imagine. I know the media attention, the intensity and the pressure are going to get amped up a little bit. I’m around a group of guys that have experienced it so much and they are poised. Their confidence and relaxation (mental) this time of the year kinda just rubs off on you a little bit.”

MT: What’s going to be the difference this year than in years past going into the playoffs?

Antonio McDyess: “The biggest difference is 1: We’ve gotten rest and 2: We have a bench that can play. Guys with fresh legs that can step out on the court and continue what the starters did while they was out there. Our mentality is different. This is my fourth year and we are hungry. We know we have been shorted three years in a row now and we know what it’s going to take. We kind of took it lightly last year. We  blew threw the first two series and got to the last one and we thought it was going to be the same. We underestimated teams. This year we don’t talk and are on our P’s and Q’s.”

On the Philly side this is brand new territory for much of their rotation has no idea what the playoffs will bring. The starters have a grand total of 46 playoff games. Veteran reserve Kevin Ollie–the lone hold over from the ’01 team the went to the Finals has 38 himself. “This feels good.” He said said to me recently. “We have a good mix of our young guys and veterans playing hard so it’s good to be back.”

The Matchups

There’s not a pg guard in the league no coach would want more come playoff time than Chauncey Billups. He’s the consummate money time leader who is definitely out to prove last year against Cleveland was an aberration. He is known to shut down the opposing pg. He will post you up. He will dribble drive with strength down the lane and is known to fire the three down by two late right in your eye and be smooth about it.  He will not let his team lose under any circumstances and this match up with Andre Miller is definitely one of the most intriguing in the first round.

Andre Miller is the key to the Sixers success. He’s arguably the most underrated player in the league. Most might think it’s Iguodala team, but if Miller isn’t in and out of the lane poppin’ that 12-15 jumper with consistency this team will get swept. He’s one of the few guards who will be able to post up Chauncey Billups and obviously the determining factor is who will be able to set the tone for their respective teams by taking advantage of the other offensively. Miller’s a veteran, but he’s going against the master.

Advantage Billups but it may be closer than you think.

At shooting guard you have two guards who run their opponents off screens to exhaustion to get free. Richard Hamilton is the best mid range guard in the league and Philly is in trouble for Rip has been able to rest down the stretch. Detroit has been very smart resting down the stretch and prepare for what could be the last great run of the Detroit nucleus (they say that every year don’t they?). Rip’s also shot more from behind the line this year than in years past which is almost unfair. He and Mr. Big Shot win games alone in the fourth quarter because both are above average free throw shooters. If they don’t kill you with their skill they will kill you with their professionalism. Pick your poison.  Willie Green is averaging a career high 12 points per game as the Sixers have been getting out on the break. He’ll have his hands full chasing Hamilton around but could be a difference maker if he’s able to do anything offensively.

Advantage Hamilton by a long shot.

Everyone knows about Tayshaun’s 7’2″ wingspan and his lock down defensive style but few speak on his offensive skills. The one thing you have to remember about this team is they could care less who leads in scoring or who does the post game interview and no one personifies that sentiment more than Prince.  He lays in the cut and picks his spots offensively. Early in the game he’ll pass on the open three but as the game progresses you get the entire skill package. He will embarrass you on defense, just ask Reggie Miller. There are questions if Andre Iguodala is a franchise player. He passed on a contract extension back in November and his play right here, right now will go a long way to fattening his pockets. He’s added an effortless fall away jumper to his game that has been key in his career high average. He’s one of the best finishers in the league and if he gets out in transition early this could get interesting. This match simply will determine if Philly has any shot of winning any games.

Slight advantage to Prince based on experience.

Because of Philly’s lack of size they’ll be a lot of different looks down low because Cheeks knows he’s at a disadvantage with Sheed being able to step out and hit the three. Samuel Dalembert has quietly had a nice season and came up big late with huge blocks against some of the best big men in the league, but you never know what player you are going to get with Sammy. Reggie Evans will be asked to press if by chance the Sixers go on a nice run to disrupt the Piston’s rhythm but he’s undersized defending any of the Piston’s front line. McDyess is searching for his first title and as you’ve read earlier he will be determined to get that done. Philly is so out manned here that they’ll have to depend on their bench–the entire team could be in foul trouble by helping out.

Advantage Pistons by a ridiculous margin.

If this was last year, I’d actually give the Sixers a shot because of their bench. Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Afflalo, Jason Maxiel and Jarvis Hayes have become deadly as of late with steady play and even though Thaddeus Young, Rodney Carney Jason Smith and Louis Williams have done their thing this year, they too will have their hands full when the starters rest. If the Sixers get out on the break with this team, Flip might burn timeouts he didn’t wish he had to.

Advantage Sixers.

Maurice Cheeks would be the coach of the year if not for Byron Scott. I have been impressed with his ability to keep the young players grounded when they could have flew off the handle and become enamored with their collective egos. His attention to detail is remarkable with such a young team. He’s been very impressive this year and deserves the league wide respect he’s been given as of late.

I gotta be honest about Flip Saunders. This team coaches themselves and won’t let what happen last year with LeBron happen again. This series could have a major impact on his future in Detroit. If they go out early, look for Flip Saunders to be fired in the off season. He has rested his vets, but it remains to be seen if he has what it takes when the fire is burning the hottest.

You gotta win one Flip. Straight up.

Pistons will win the series 4-2 with a couple close victories strictly because of pro play from the entire team. I expect Sheed to go off–especially in Philly. He gets booed just as much as Kobe here. Detroit just has too much down low to be seriously tested here. I will say if the Sixers somehow are able to run and put pressure on Flip to make some decisions do not be surprised if there is an upset. The 2-2 regular season means nothing now, but a young team with confidence is dangerous in any arena.