Sunday , May , 08 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Preview – Detroit vs. Indiana

***** NBA Playoff Preview – Detroit vs. Indiana *****
From The Sports Network

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

DETROIT PISTONS: 2nd Seed, East (54-28)

INDIANA PACERS: 6th Seed, East (44-38)

(Sports Network) – Another chapter will be written in what has become one of
the ugliest rivalries in sports history, as the defending world champion
Detroit Pistons square off with the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers in the Eastern
Conference semifinals.

This rivalry took a turn for the worse on November 19th, as the second-seeded
Pistons and Pacers were scheduled to play a competitive game at The Palace of
Auburn Hills. However the contest turned into an out of control melee. Indiana
won 97-82, but the game had to be stopped in the final minute because of the
fracas.

NBA Commissioner David Stern showed no mercy as he suspended Indiana’s Ron
Artest, who was the 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, for the remainder
of the season for his part in the brawl. Stern also suspended eight other
players for their roles in the melee that started on the court and eventually
found its way into the seats and included the fans at The Palace. Artest’s
teammate, Stephen Jackson received a 30-game suspension, while Indiana All-
Star Jermaine O’Neal originally received 25 games and guard Anthony Johnson
got five.

Detroit suffered it biggest loss with a six-game suspension to Ben Wallace,
whose two-handed shove to Artest’s face instigated the incident. Four other
players received a one-game penalty for leaving the bench during an on-court
altercation. The list included Indiana’s Reggie Miller, and Detroit’s Elden
Campbell, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Coleman.

On March 25th, another scary incident occurred prior to Indiana’s 94-81
victory over the Pistons at The Palace. A telephoned threat that there was a
bomb in the Pacers’ locker room delayed the start of the contest by almost 90
minutes. Fortunately, nothing was found by the authorities.

This is the third time that the clubs have met in the postseason. Detroit
swept the Pacers, 3-0, in the first round of the 1990 playoffs. The Pistons
also eliminated Indiana from last year’s postseason, as they beat their
nemesis in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals .

The second-seeded Pistons have made it at least this far in the postseason for
three straight years. Detroit defeated the Lakers in five games in the 2004
NBA Finals, was swept in four games by New Jersey in the conference finals in
2003, and lost in five games to Boston in the 2003 semis.

In the opening round Detroit ousted the seventh-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in
five games. The Pistons won Games 1, 2 and 5 at The Palace of Auburn Hills and
split two contests at the Wachovia Center.

Guards Richard Hamilton and Billups, who was the 2004 NBA Finals MVP,
led Detroit in scoring against the Sixers. Hamilton averaged a team-best 21.4
points, while Billups netted 18.8 per game. The 28-year-old Billups also
dished out a team-high 6.8 assists in the five contests against Philadelphia.
Forward Tayshaun Prince was huge for Detroit against Philadelphia, as he
played unbelievable defense and continued to frustrate the Sixers like he has
in years past. Prince averaged 17.2 points and 7.2 boards in the opening
series.

All-Star Ben Wallace, who won his third NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and
Rasheed Wallace were also excellent for the defending world champions against
the 76ers. Ben Wallace, who scored a career-high 29 points in Game 3s loss,
posted solid stats as he averaged 12.8 points, a team-best 12.2 rebounds and
2.6 blocks per game. Rasheed Wallace scored 17 points and pulled down 6.4
boards in the five games against Philly.

The Pistons played like champions against the 76ers. They never lost their
composure and were able to battle through tough times in the series. Detroit’s
playoff experience showed in round one and it has proved to be a valuable
asset to the club.

Detroit was an impressive 32-9 as the host during the regular season, and was
22-19 on the road. The Pistons own home-court advantage in this series.

Indiana survived the first round, as it eliminated No. 3 Boston in seven
games. Jackson scored 24 points to lead the Pacers to a 97-70 victory over the
Celtics in the decisive contest at the FleetCenter.

Jackson led Indiana in scoring against the Celtics, as he averaged 18.9 points
per game. The All-Star O’Neal, who still seems bothered by an injured
shoulder, contributed 15.7 points and 7.7 boards, which were below his season
regular-season numbers of 24.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg.

Veteran guard Miller, who has said he will retire when Indiana’s season
is over, posted 15.6 points per game and made just over 35 percent of his
attempts from beyond the arc against Boston. The 39-year-old Miller showed
against the Celtics that his experience, leadership and ability are still a
big key to Indiana’s success.

Indiana is appearing in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the seventh time
since joining the NBA in 1976, and have never lost in this round. The Pacers
were victorious in the semis in 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004.

The Pacers were 25-16 at home during the regular season, and were 19-22 as the
visitor

FRONTCOURT: The Wallaces and Prince have proved that they can win in the
playoffs. Ben Wallace, who averaged 9.7 points during the regular season,
showed flashes of offensive skills against Philadelphia and was his usual
dominant self defensively in the series.

Rasheed Wallace is a great complement to the other Wallace, as he can score
from the outside as well as the inside. Since becoming a member of the Pistons
late last season, he has become a solid defender and has adapted to Detroit’s
style. Prince, like Ben Wallace, excels defensively, and, like Rasheed
Wallace, can drain the outside jumper and is also able to drive to the hole
effectively.

O’Neal, Jackson and veteran Dale Davis are going to have a lot of trouble with
their opponents. O’Neal does not appear to be fully healed from a shoulder
injury he suffered in early March. The Pacers need a healthy O’Neal for them
to be a threat in the low post.

Jackson is playing well, but he needs to keep his emotions in check or he
could be lost very early in this series. If Detroit uses Prince to defend him,
Indiana will have to make a lot of adjustments. Davis will most likely be a
non-factor, and will be asked to rebound and use his fouls.

Detroit has the perfect formula for a frontcourt. They have a strong presence
in the middle on defense, all three can rebound, the small and power forward
can both score from the low post and the outside and all of them are team
players. The Pistons own this matchup up front.

EDGE: DETROIT

BACKCOURT: Billups and Hamilton seem to shine in the playoffs. Both are solid
defenders and can burn their opponents on the offensive end of the court.
Hamilton shot 51.2 percent from the field, including 46 percent of his
attempts from beyond the arc in round one, while Billups hit on 44 percent of
his shots from the floor.

Detroit’s backcourt is not spectacular, but they know how to get the job done.
Both players are not afraid to take the big shot in crunch time, and they are
also able to make the big stop when their opponent has a chance to take a lead
or to even win the game. This is one guard tandem that comes to play in the
playoffs.

Miller and point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who is still nursing a sore foot, will
have to rise to the next level to keep up with the Detroit duo. Miller will
have to find the fountain of youth to stay with Hamilton, while Tinsley, who
averaged six points and five assists in three games against Boston, is not
healthy enough to defend the crafty Billups.

EDGE: DETROIT

BENCH: Guards Carlos Arroyo and Lindsey Hunter and forward Antonio McDyess
will get the minutes off the Detroit bench. Arroyo and Hunter are both capable
of running the point and can be paired with either Billups or Hamilton. Arroyo
played just seven minutes per game in four appearances against Philly, while
Hunter played in all five games and averaged two points in just over 11
minutes of action per contest.

The 30-year-old McDyess was the first off the pine in round one. He scored 15
points and grabbed eight rebounds in Game 1, and averaged 8.6 points and 5.6
boards for the series. He gives Detroit a lift offensively of the bench and
can fill in effectively for either Wallace.

Indiana has a solid bench. Johnson, who averaged 8.4 and 5.4 assists versus
the Celtics, will get a lot of minutes behind Miller and Tinsley. He will be
asked to play both guard spots and will have to defend both Billups and
Hamilton.

Reserve center Jeff Foster will split time with Davis, while guard Fred Jones,
who netted 16 in Game 7s win over Boston, will need to knock down his threes
and give the Pacers instant offense off the pine. Forwards James Jones and
Austin Croshere will also be used to help keep Indiana’s frontcourt fresh.

EDGE: INDIANA

COACH: Detroit’s Larry Brown is one of the best coaches in the history of the
NBA. Brown, who led Detroit to the title last year in his first season with
the franchise, is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of
Fame. He gets the most out of his team, and has been able to once again get
his squad to realize that they win games with defensive intensity and when
everyone is involved in the offense. Brown is unbelievable with the Xs and Os
of the game and he once again gives his team an advantage on the sidelines.

Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle hopes to finally get some revenge on his
former squad. In a move that shocked the basketball world, Pistons president
Joe Dumars fired Carlisle after the Pistons were swept in the 2003 Eastern
Conference finals by the New Jersey Nets and replaced him with Brown. During
his two years in Detroit, Carlisle had led the Pistons to two straight 50-win
campaigns. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2001-02 for guiding Detroit
to an 18-win turnaround. Carlisle, who completed his second season as the head
man in Indiana, has been nothing but successful during his four year’s as a
general in the NBA and may have done his best work this campaign.

Carlisle is a fantastic coach, but it is hard to give someone and edge over a
a general who is already in the Hall of Fame.

EDGE: DETROIT

PREDICTION: Indiana will once again wish that the events of November 19th
never happend, as the absence of Artest will be felt one more time. This is
they type of series that Artest would have excelled in. The Pacers may not
have much left after defeating the Celtics in seven games.

The Pistons are strong in every facet of the game. They will continue to play
like champions, and will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for a third
straight year.

DETROIT IN FIVE

DET IND