Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Detroit Pistons Lose Game Five; Chicago Bulls Make it a Series Again

When the Detroit Pistons drew the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, I originally said the series would go seven games. I thought the Bulls, while young, were hungry, and the Pistons, while more talented, were too nonchalant. Then the Pistons destroyed the Bulls in the first three games of the series, and I looked silly. I'd do a lot right now to go back to looking silly, because the Bulls are very much alive, and after embarrassing the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, 108-92, Game Six shifts to Chicago, and there is a very, very good chance we are looking at a very unpredictable Game Seven back in Detroit.
AP Photo
Even though they were at home, and even though they knew they had to crush the will and momentum of the Bulls early, the Detroit Pistons never got into a rhythm. They fell behind early, never dug themselves out, and if anything, kept falling further and further and further behind. It didn't help that the Bulls shot 72% in the first half and only a late run by the Pistons cut the lead to single digits going into the half.

Then something unexpected happened. Instead of coming out of halftime fired up, and quickly retaking the lead, the Pistons were as stagnant as they've been all series. The Bulls, on the other hand, continued their hot shooting, scoring 33 points in the quarter, adding 13 points to their lead, pushing it over 20 going into the fourth quarter.

No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA Playoffs before, but the Bulls are young and inexperienced enough not to know any better. And they are playing with confidence right now, and the Pistons are not. And if that doesn't change in a hurry, history may be set before Detroit even knows what hits them.

In Game Six, Flip Saunders should, especially if the team lacks fire early, go to Jason Maxiell early and often. Maxiell, who played so well in Game Three, showed some emotion on both ends of the floor when he played in Game Five, and perhaps had he played more, the Pistons would have had a better chance to make it a game.

I still think the Pistons are too talented to lose four straight to Chicago, but what was a sure thing, no longer is. The Bulls, at home, are going to be very tough on Thursday. The Pistons won in Chicago in Game Three, but Game Six is going to be the hardest, and most important road game of the season. And if they lose it, there are no guarantees the Pistons will be able to wrap up the series in Game Seven, even though the game would be at home.

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