For the third straight season, the Detroit Pistons will not advance to the NBA Finals. And, though I am a Celtics fan, this truth is a result not of Boston’s strength, but of Detroit’s weaknesses. That assertion sounds crazy, I know. The Pistons have become, along with the Spurs, the league’s standard for consistency since the 2001-02 season, never winning less than 50 games since. In each of those trips to the playoffs, they have advanced past the first round. Their current series is their sixth straight Eastern Conference Finals. In 2004, the team upset the heavily-favored, star-laden Lakers to win the championship. Despite their experience, history of success, winning mentality, clutch players, and toughness, however, the 2008 version of the Detroit Pistons is not presently constituted to win a championship.
That first paragraph may strike you as ridiculous and unfounded. But I’m about to top the whole thing in one sentence. Ready?
The Pistons’ defense isn’t good enough to win this series.
Before you refer me to a psychiatrist, hear me out. As great as Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton are with a lead in a close game, the duo cannot consistently match baskets with another team’s go-to guy in the final minutes of a game, especially when trailing. And if you think the Piston’s stellar defense can make up for that weakness, you’re wrong. Since beating the Lakers in 2004, Detroit’s playoff history has been the history of opposing stars out-performing the Pistons in crunchtime. Continue reading
Nastiness and killer instinct. Say what you want about coaching, playoff experience, Lebron. The reasons the Celtics are where they are right now, losers of five (going on six) straight road games, all but two of the defeats close, are as simple as nastiness and killer instinct. The Celtics lack both. And there’s only one player in the history of the NBA who could solve both problems. His name is Reggie Miller.
You see, I remember Michael Jordan winning his last championship. I remember him pushing Byron Russell to the floor and rising up. I remember the ball falling through the net. I remember John Stockton missing the three at the other end. I remember Bob Costas saying, “If that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?” And I remember thinking, if that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, who was my hero now?
And I remember then thinking about Reggie Miller. I remember that I thought of Game 4 of the Easter Conference Finals. I thought of Reggie pushing off Jordan, catching the inbounds, and spinning to the basket. I thought of the shot slapping the back of the net and Reggie jumping in circles. I practiced that shot for hours on end. Then I realized who my new hero was. Continue reading
Last night I was able to catch the end of the Magic-Pistons game. Some thoughts:
–How many games have the Pistons won in the last five years with clutch free throws? They’re one of the only teams that, when they have a two possession lead with anywhere under two minutes, make you feel like changing the channel because the game’s over. Look at the free throw scoring and free throw shooting of Billups and Hamilton in 82games.com’s “clutch” statistics from this season. These are measured when in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes less and neither team is ahead by more than 5 points.