NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Milwaukee
***** NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Milwaukee ***** From The Sports Network
By Shawn Clarke, NBA analyst
Detroit Pistons: 1st Seed, East (64-18)
Milwaukee Bucks: 8th Seed, East (40-42)
(Sports Network) - The Detroit Pistons are in the playoffs for the fifth straight season and will represent the Eastern Conference as the top seed.
Detroit, which captured the Central Division and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, has reached the NBA Finals each of the last two years and hope that 2005-06 will be a third.
Standing in the way of that goal are the division-rival Milwaukee Bucks. They captured the eighth and final playoff spot and a chance to upset the top team in the league.
Milwaukee is in the playoffs for the second time in three years and sixth since the 1999 season. The Bucks, who missed last season's playoffs, were ousted in five games by the Pistons in the first round of 2004.
Detroit finished 3-1 versus Milwaukee in the 2005-06 season series and has won five of the last six meetings.
The Pistons defeated Milwaukee in three games during the first round of the 1975-76 Western Conference playoffs. Detroit later swept the Bucks in four games in the 1988-89 Eastern Conference semifinals.
These two teams met again in the 2003-04 postseason when the Pistons beat the Bucks in five games.
The Bucks will head to The Palace of Auburn Hills to open the playoffs and have lost six straight and eight of their last nine at Detroit. Milwaukee has lost 14 of its last 18 in the Motor City.
Meanwhile, Pistons former coach Larry Brown left the team in the offseason and it was assumed the team would fail with another coach. Instead, Flip Saunders, who got out of an ugly situation in Minnesota, headed to the Pistons and guided the squad to the best regular-season record in franchise history.
Saunders is a top candidate for Coach of the Year.
The Pistons eclipsed the 63 wins set in the 1988-89 season when they captured the first of consecutive NBA titles. No team has won more games since the 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers registered 67 wins.
After the Pistons defeated the New York Knicks on Sunday, they tied the franchise record for home wins with 37, also set by the 1988-89 team.
Detroit will try to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth straight season. That feat can certainly become reality with 2005-06 All-Stars Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace.
They joined the Celtics (1952-53, 1961-62 and 1974-75), Lakers (1961-62 and 1997-98) and Sixers (1982-83) as the only squads in All-Star Game history to have four players selected to participate in a single All-Star Game.
The starting five for the Pistons -- both Wallace's, Hamilton, Billups and Tayshaun Prince -- have played 160 regular-season games and 48 postseason contests together. The tremendous experience, including 73 consecutive starts together this season, is the reason why this team will make it a third straight trip to the NBA Finals.
In 2002-03, the Pistons were swept in four games by the New Jersey Nets in the conference finals, then came back the following year to defeat Indiana in six games and eventually capture the NBA title over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Last season, Detroit needed seven games to eliminate the Miami Heat from the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out in seven to San Antonio for the league title.
Detroit stayed healthy this season and will go as far as the big four will carry them. Add solid contributions from Prince and Antonio McDyess and the Pistons will be playing for their second championship in three years.
Milwaukee battled at the end of the season to avoid the eighth spot and the Pistons, but now must face a daunting task. It will be led by Michael Redd, Jamaal Magloire, rookie Andrew Bogut and T.J. Ford.
Game 1 will be at Detroit on Sunday night, while the Pistons will again be host for Game 2 on Wednesday evening. Game's 3 and 4 will be in Milwaukee.
FRONTCOURT: Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Antonio McDyess will occupy the frontcourt for the Pistons this postseason. But the main attraction are the Wallace's.
Big Ben will provide the physical presence in the middle, making it hard for the opponent to score easily in the paint. His blocking ability and rebounding prowess make him one of toughest players to contain.
Wallace led the team with 11.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, while averaging 7.3 points and 1.8 steals.
Rasheed has the frame of Ben, but not the bulk. However, Wallace is an excellent passer and a mystery behind the three-point arc. The man can drain three-pointers much like a guard, but tends to let his emotions take control. Rasheed was already suspended this season for eclipsing the amount of technical fouls allowed in a season.
The Philly native averaged 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this season.
Both Wallace's will most likely square up with either Jamaal Magloire, Andrew Bogut or Bobby Simmons. Bogut averaged 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in his first season, while Magloire posted 9.2 points and 9.5 boards.
Prince will contribute solid numbers just as he did in the regular season, while McDyess adds another big body down low for Detroit. However, Toni Kukoc and Dan Gadzuric will add support off the bench for the Bucks.
The Pistons have the experience and size up front in this matchup. Expect Detroit to bully the Bucks in the paint.
BACKCOURT: Detroit's backcourt duo of Hamilton and Billups is arguably the best in the NBA. The two All-Stars make game planning for opposing coaches torture because of the multi-faceted approach each player brings to the hardwood.
Hamilton led the Pistons in scoring with 20.1 points per game. Billups had an 18.5 points average and led the squad with 8.6 assists a contest. Milwaukee has no chance in winning the backcourt battle with Redd, Ford and Charlie Bell.
Redd is an All-Star, averaging a team-high 25.4 points a game and 2.9 assists. Ford had a 12.2 points per game clip, but Hamilton and Billups have been here before and will put on a show for the youngsters in their brief playoff trip.
COACH: Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars made an excellent choice on July 21, 2005 when he hired Flip Saunders as the 25th head coach in team history.
Saunders spent nine-plus years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and helped the squad to eight straight playoff appearances. He also coached the Timberwolves to a franchise-best 58-24 mark in 2003-04.
It seems wherever Saunders goes success will soon follow. His Pistons were the best in the East and finished with the top record in the NBA this season, as well as breaking the franchise record for wins in a season.
Saunders quickly made his presence felt with an eight-game winning streak to start the 2005-06 season. The Pistons were 11-2 after the first month (November) of the season.
He will engage in a battle of wits with Milwaukee head coach Terry Stotts. Stotts, who was named the ninth head coach in franchise history last summer, got the Bucks to the playoffs in his first season with the team.
Stotts' club battled for the final spot, but more importantly reached the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. The long-time NBA assistant was a part of Milwaukee's run to the conference finals in 2001, but that is no match to Saunders' resume and arsenal.
PREDICTION: The Bucks will pick up one victory in the series with Detroit and that will be their championship.
PISTONS IN FIVEDET MIL