The Post Game Show

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Don't C-O-U-N-T These Pistons Out

Winning a Game Seven in any sport is tough to do. Winning it on the road is even tougher, so what the Detroit Pistons accomplished last night in their 88-82 Eastern Conference-clinching win over the Miami Heat is nothing to sneeze at. Since the NBA took in four ABA teams in 1976, only two road teams prior to last night won a Game Seven Conference Final. The first team to do that was the 1982 Philadelphia 76ers, who these Pistons share a common ground with; Nobody really wanted to give them a chance.

That year, the Sixers, who in the '81 Eastern Conference Finals lost to the Boston Celtics after going up 3 games to 1 in the series, blew that same lead against the Celtics the following year, and everybody braced for impending doom in Game Seven, at the fabled Boston Garden no less. However, the Sixers came out like gangbusters, led the "Boston Strangler," Andrew Toney, who dropped 34 points on 12-of-16 shooting. The Sixers won 120-106, embarrassing the Celtics to the point where the fans sent the Sixers off to the NBA finals with chants of "Beat L.A.!"

23 years later, the Pistons were victims of hyperbole and hope. Everyone thought Shaquille O'Neal was going to turn back the clock, and Dwayne Wade would pull a Willis Reed and will the Heat to the NBA Finals. Didn't work out that way, simply because Larry Brown out-coached Stan Van Gundy, which wasn't hard to do since Van Gundy's brainless play-calling left Shaq like a homeless man: with his hand out, getting nothing for his trouble. The Diesel, who had a pretty good game of 27 points, nine boards and three blocks, was shut out as the Pistons made their run, courtesy of Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton, who continues to create a space for himself as one of the true clutch players in the game.

D-Wade gave a great effort, playing in pain, but in the fourth quarter, his strained rib cage basically said "this is the last stop, kid."

And everyone who picked Damon Jones to screw it up basically is making a lot of money this morning. For a cat who calls himself the most beautiful guy in the NBA, he played one ugly-ass game last night. Maybe Pat Riley should look for a point guard this off-season to compliment Flash and Shaq for next year's run.

But this is truly about the defending champions, who have earned the right to defend their crown on the league's biggest stage against the West's best, the San Antonio Spurs. And after beating the Heat in hostile territory last night, anyone who bets against the Pistons to repeat is a fool. I know I've learned my lesson.


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