Thursday, May 10, 2007

Detroit Pistons Win Game Three Over Chicago

If the Chicago Bulls were even remotely close to a good team, they would be celebrating a Game Three victory right now, and the Eastern Conference semi-finals would be a series again. Instead, despite holding the Detroit Pistons to 28 points in the first half (yes, that's not a typo, the first half), the Bulls still managed to lose to the Pistons by seven, 81-74. And here I thought this series was going to go seven games and was a toss-up. As it turns out, the Pistons will likely complete a four game sweep on Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

While the Pistons kept pace with the Bulls in the first quarter, neither team played well at the start of Game Three, the Bulls obviously nervous in a must win game, and the Pistons cold from the floor, having most of their shots bounce off the rim. In the second quarter though, while the Pistons still couldn't make a shot, the Bulls scored 24 points (to the Pistons 10) and pushed their halftime lead to 16. Game Three was following what many thought would be the script, the Bulls controlling the pace in front of their home crowd, showing life after getting blown out in two games in Detroit.

And even though early in the third quarter the Bulls were able to increase their lead to 19, they were facing a transformed and more focused Piston team then they saw in the first half. Chauncey Billups got hot and Tayshaun Prince did too, and suddenly the three point shots were falling and the defense was tightening, and what looked to be a Bulls blowout victory was suddenly very much in doubt. The Pistons kept cutting into the Bulls lead, going on a 12-0 run at one point, and when Rasheed Wallace hit a three pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter, the Pistons had exceeded their entire first half output (32 points as compared to 28) and the Bulls 19 point lead was cut to 1.
AP Photo
The game was really over at that point, as the Pistons took the lead early in the fourth quarter and never looked back. Prince led the Pistons with 23 points and 11 rebounds and Rasheed Wallace was dominant as well, scoring 16, grabbing 11 boards, and blocking five shots. And a lot of credit to goes to Antonio McDyess, who despite scoring only 3 points, played quality minutes after Chris Webber struggled out of the gate, shooting 0-5 on the night.

The inexperience of the Bulls really showed tonight. Veteran teams, like the Pistons, don't let up when they go into halftime with a 16 point lead, they go for the kill and make sure their opponent isn't able to mount a comeback. The Bulls, though, relaxed for just an instant in the third quarter, and that is all the Pistons needed to take control. The Pistons are too good (and too experienced) to let hang around, because eventually, they will start making their shots, and their defense will cause turnovers. No matter how bad it looks in the first half, and on Thursday night, it looked really bad.

Game Four is Sunday afternoon and I can't see the Bulls putting up much of a fight (though, I have been wrong about practically everything else in this series, so if you are a betting man (or woman) may want to take the Bulls Sunday). Just like the Detroit Red Wings snapped the will of the San Jose Sharks when they scored with thirty seconds to go in Game Four (and later won in overtime), the Bulls blowing a 19 point second half lead at home, falling behind 3-0, they know they can't win this series. And they also know, they likely just blew their chance of making this a series. And even though the Chicago fans may be loud Sunday, and trying to will their team to victory, the Pistons will likely close the series out. Because unlike Chicago, Detroit knows that if you give a team a chance to make a comeback, have it be in a game, or in a series, that team will take it, and before you know it, the game (or series) may be over. Chicago learned that lesson tonight, and they'll need to learn a few more before they are ready to dethrone the Pistons.
AP Photo

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