Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another playoff round, another 7 game series?

It starts all over again tonight. A rematch between 2 teams destined since day 1 of the season to meet deep in the playoffs. The Pistons vs. the Heat in the NBA Eastern Confrence Finals. We have matchups galore...

  • Shaq vs. anyone the Pistons have over 6'8".
  • Dwayne Wade vs. the entire Pistons backcourt.
  • Jason Williams vs. the english language.
  • Rasheed Wallace vs. his loquaciousness on and off the court.
  • Antione Walker vs. the 3 point line.
  • Flip Saunders vs. the Pistons fan's expectations.
  • Pat Riley vs. the referees.
  • Ben Wallace vs. the rim.
  • Gary Payton vs. his worst nightmare, Chauncey Billups.
  • Miami writers vs. Southeast Michigan. (What are the odds that Dan LeBatard files a boilerplate Detroit sucks hard column? I expect to see it before game 2, considering today's column bashes the Pistons.)
  • Arnie Kander vs. 'Sheed's sprained ankle.
  • Pistons Fans vs. Heat fans in regard to who would have won the series last year if Wade doesn't hurt his ribs.
  • The eyes and ears of the nation vs. ESPN, who'll broadcast all but 1 game of the series, unfortunately. (Why does the western confrence get TNT, Charles Barkley, and "Inside the NBA" while we have foisted upon us ESPN, "NBA Shootaround, Tim Legler, and Sreamin' A. Smith? It's not fair!)
The Pistons do have some advantages going for them. During this playoff run, the referees have taken away Shaq's best offensive move, which is catching the ball in the low block, putting his shoulder down, and bumrushing the basket. After a decade, the NBA is finally calling it for the offensive foul that it's always been. Considering the the refs never called King James for using his off arm the way same Barry Sanders used a stiff arm on conerbacks, it'll be a refreshing change.

There is the Heat rust factor. It's one thing to have a 2 or 3 day break between series, but 6? You have to believe that it will take some time for the Heat to get back their game legs. I'd expect to the Pistons to be much sharper than the Heat in game 1. But one positive thing for the Heat is that I'm sure Pat Riley was furiously taking notes as to what the Cavs head coach, Mike Brown, gameplanned that ended up frustrating the Pistons. And Riles has 50 times the experience of Mike Brown, so expect plenty of wrinkles.

Can Antoine Walker stop Tayshaun Prince? Walker is more skilled at doing shoulder shimmies after 3 pointers than playing defense. Can White Chocolate handle Chauncey Billups on the defensive end? For that matter, can Gary Payton? Williams is another Heat role player (Like Walker) who thinks defense is a 4 letter word, and we all remember how Billups used and abused "The Mitten" in the 2004 Finals.

This series is not going to be the cakewalk we all thought it would be before the playoffs began. Wade is Wade, and he's not injured. Shaq is still Shaq, he's good for at least a 20 and 10, no matter who plays him. It's a matter of when Shaq puts up those numbers, as we've all seen him run out of gas late in games against the Pistons. Let him get his early, but shut him down late. Walker's shooting skill can be scary, and he has played well in the playoffs, to this point. I wouldn't be surprised if either Udonis Haslem or James Posey have some good games, as energy guys can give the Pistons fits. See how well the Cavs' Sideshow Bob played in the last round, for a prime example.

The Pistons should win this series. I'm not saying they will win, but should win. As long as they don't decide to take a few games off. Or shoot 50% from the charity stripe. Or let Wade drive the lane unfettered. Or fall in love with long jumpers and ignore the low post. Basically, don't fall into the bad habits we saw in game 3 against the Bucks, and games 3-4-5 against the Cavs. I'm guessing the Pistons lose a game or 2 that we fans feel that they could/should have won. It has happened in every series, why should this one be any different?

So buckle your seat belts, keep your arms and legs inside, and hang on, as I think we're going to see another 6 or 7 game rollercoaster ride.

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