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
Muhammad Ali once said, “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.” Before his second fight against Sonny Liston, Ali told reporters he had dreamed he would knock Liston out in the first round. He did.
In 1969, Joe Namath’s New York Jets were facing the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Before the game, the young Namath boldy declared, “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” They did.
Before Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Jordan proclaimed, “I don’t care what happens today, don’t care what happened in the other series…. We will win Game 7.” They did.
On Saturday, Jameer Nelson told the media, “I’m not being arrogant or cocky or anything like that…. We’re going to win this game in Detroit.” Wait–Ali, Namath, Jordan…Nelson? Who is Jameer Nelson to make a guarantee? Who guarantees a win in Game 5? 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.