Pistons are on a mission
(Sports Network) – The top-seeded Detroit Pistons are playing like a team on a
mission. They have won their first seven games of the postseason and have not
allowed their opponent to reach the century mark.
Detroit, which knocked out No. 8 Orlando in four straight in round one of the
postseason, has jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead over Central Division-
rival Chicago in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Pistons picked up a
pair of 20-plus point victories in Games 1 and 2 at The Palace of Auburn
Hills, and fought back from a 16-point half-time deficit to defeat the Bulls,
81-74, in Game 3 at the United Center.
Tayshaun Prince scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while
Chauncey Billups finished with 21 points and a team-best seven assists in Game
3 for the Pistons, who are one win away from advancing to their fifth straight
Eastern Conference finals.
The Pistons, who lost to Miami in six games during last year’s conference
finals, have won three straight and 13 of their last 14 contests when they
have the chance to eliminate their opponent from the playoffs.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” said Detroit’s Richard Hamilton
after Game 3’s victory. “We know we need one more win. Our guys are very
focused. We’ve been here before and know what it takes to get the job done. We
took our time and got this win.”
Hamilton scored 16 points, pulled down five boards and dished out three
assists in Game 3, while Rasheed Wallace contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds
for Detroit, which outscored Chicago 53-30 in the second half.
Chicago committed 14 turnovers in Game 3’s loss and was completely out of sync
in the second half. The Bulls shot just 33.7 percent from the field, including
a dismal 15.4 percent from beyond the arc.
“We played zone,” said Detroit head coach Flip Saunders about Detroit’s second
half change defensively in Game 3. “I think we had maybe four or five
possessions where we played man-to-man. We were zone almost exclusively. We
played a lockdown zone and were able to take away their penetration and them
coming off screens.”
The Pistons have held the Bulls under 40 percent from the floor and have also
outrebounded Chicago in all three games of the series. Chicago shot 32.9
percent in the opener and 34.3 percent in Game 2. Detroit owned a 46-38 edge
on the boards in Game 1 and ruled the glass by a decisive 51-30 margin in the
second game of the set.
With the exception of the first half of Game 3, Detroit has dominated the
Bulls, who won three of the meetings between the teams during the regular
season, in the semis.
Billups, who leads the Pistons in scoring (20.6 ppg) and assists (7.0 apg)
during the postseason, is once again hitting the clutch shots and showing why
he has the reputation of being a big-time playoff performer. Fellow All-Star
Hamilton is averaging 19.0 points, 4.4 boards and 3.7 assists in Detroit’s
first seven playoff contests.
Prince, who is the unsung hero of the Pistons, continues to do the little
things that teams need to win, while veterans Chris Webber, who is averaging
10.7 points and 6.9 boards in the postseason, and Wallace are doing their part
Tenacious defense and execution on offense are making the Pistons very tough
to beat. Their starting five has been excellent, while veteran big man Antonio
McDyes has been solid off the bench.
Detroit is on a mission to return to the NBA Finals for the third time in four
years. The Pistons defeated the Lakers in five in 2004, and lost in seven to
San Antonio in 2005.
As long as the Pistons continue their current style of play, no team in the
East will be able to beat them in this year’s playoffs. Right now, Detroit is
just too good.