Wednesday , Nov , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Iverson and Sixers travel to Detroit

(Sports Network) – The Flip Saunders-era begins for Detroit this evening, as
the Pistons get their 2005-06 campaign underway against the Philadelphia 76ers
at The Palace.

Saunders, was fired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in February after 9 1/2
years of service, has replaced Hall-of-Famer Larry Brown, who once again made
a controversial exit from a franchise and has landed in New York as the new
head coach of the Knicks.

He inherits the same core of players which won the NBA championship in 2004.

Last season, the Pistons won 54 games in the regular season, captured the
Central Division, and were the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. They defeated
Philadelphia in five games in the first round and eliminated Indiana in six in
the conference semis.

Detroit got a scare in the East finals, as it trailed Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane
Wade and the top-seeded Heat 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. However, the
experience of the Pistons showed as they won Game 6 at home and dismissed
Miami on its homecourt in Game 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.

San Antonio and the Pistons were evenly matched in the finals, but it was not
to be for Detroit. The Spurs knocked out the defending champions in seven
games and captured their third title in seven years.

The nucleus of All-Star Ben Wallace, who was suspended for six games for his
role in November 19th’s infamous brawl, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince,
Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton endured some tough times, but in the end
they did their usual stellar job in the 2004-05 campaign.

Ben Wallace, who won his third NBA Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 9.7
points and a team-best 12.2 rebounds in 74 contests during the regular season.
He was a dominant force in the middle and is still the catalyst of Detroit’s
dominant defense.

Hamilton led the club in scoring (18.9 ppg) and continued to drain clutch
shots, while Billups, who was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals, netted 16.4
points and handed out a team-high 5.8 assists per game during the regular
season and had another strong performance in the playoffs.

Prince and Rasheed Wallace also had solid seasons. Prince played tough defense
and netted 14.7 per game, while Rasheed Wallace averaged 14.5 points and 8.2
boards and was a solid citizen once again for the Pistons. These two players
know their roles and are key figures in Detroit’s success.

The Pistons’ success in the 2005-06 campaign will once again depend heavily on
their starting five. Saunders will have an easy transition in Detroit, and
will get the respect that he deserves from a team that simply knows how to
play the right way.

Philly, meanwhile, will be trying for its first win of the season after a
disappointing 117-108 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in its season-
opener on Tuesday.

Allen Iverson had 35 points and nine assists and Chris Webber added 32 points
and 14 rebounds for the Sixers, who blew a seven-point lead with less than two
minutes left in the fourth quarter and couldn’t post a win for new head coach
Maurice Cheeks.

Cheeks, who was a second-round pick of the Sixers in the 1978 draft and spent
11 seasons playing for Philadelphia, replaced the fired Jim O’Brien in the
offseason. It seemed as if he’d win his debut before a crowd of 17,705 at the
Wachovia Center, but the Bucks finished the game with an incredible 22-6 run.

The Pistons were 3-1 against the Sixers last season and has won six of 10 and
nine of the last 14 meetings.