What Can the Pistons Do Now? Game Four Thoughts

[I can’t think of any cool Knickerblogger-style introduction. So I’ll just tell you that you can reach me, Dave Crockett, as always at dcrockett17@yahoo.com.]

Down 2-0, with game 3 tonight, what can Detroit do to get back in the series?

Well, not much. In one respect what we are seeing is SA?s superior balance. Consequently, Detroit is having major difficulty taking anything away from SA with their base defense. Also, as others have mentioned, we?re seeing Detroit’s bench finally catch up to them. Though rarely mentioned by name, Detroit sorely misses Corliss Williamson and Memhet Okur. Antonio McDyess has played admirably, almost replacing Corliss?s points per 48 (17.9 vs 19.3) according to the playoff stats at 82games.com. However, he hasn’t replaced “Big Nasty’s” propensity to live at the free throw line (3.6 FTAs per 48 vs 7.7 FTAs per 48 in his minutes at power forward). In Okur Detroit had a guy who could come in and put up 10-12 points in 10 minutes. Perhaps just as important as his points, his three point shooting spaced the floor well. Even with all that, Detroit struggled mightily to score against Indiana last season. Those Pacers were a poor man’s version of SA. Though I incorrectly picked the Pacers to beat Detroit last season I feel strongly SA would have, had Derek Fisher not broken their hearts.

Still, what fun would it be to say Detroit has absolutely no shot. So what should Larry Brown do? Here are my three suggestions:

  • Roll the McDyess ? Larry, you can’t keep telling us what your team didn?t do defensively to shut SA down. I know that’s your modus operandi but you do realize that you will need to score in the 80s to win no matter how well your defense plays, don’t you? Sure your guys have been late on rotations. Sure they?ve been repeatedly scorched off the dribble. But even after one quarter of flawless defense in game 1 you were up a whopping 3 points. Only a handful of teams in the league can score 80+ points consistently against good defense. San Antonio is one of those teams, and they just beat two of the others ? Seattle and Phoenix. So the question facing you is how can you score against their D? “One thing you could do is finger roll.” Okay pardon my gratuitous reference to the Iceman; I digress? You should play Antonio McDyess over Ben Wallace. Through the first two games Nazr Mohammed and his bald fade has clearly held his own against the corn rowed Wallace. Though Wallace may yet win the battle of hairdos I’m uncertain how he can really become a significantly bigger factor in this series. The Spurs can afford to ask Mohammed to forego his offense and sacrifice his body to keep Wallace from dominating the paint. Further, Wallace’s limited offensive repertoire is not enough to draw Mohammed away from the paint, where he has been free to alter shots and contain what little dribble penetration Detroit has been able to muster. So the things Wallace brings to the table, shut down defense and rebounding, are either a non-factor (all of Mohammed’s points are gravy for SA) or are being matched (Wallace is +3 in boards but in almost 20 more minutes). McDyess on the other hand has been able to score throughout the playoffs, particularly in that important mid-range area. Of course Pop will counter with Robert Horry, who has played a great floor game and hit some big shots. But at least with McDyess you get some of those points back.
  • Quit Waiting on Rip; Tell Chauncey to Go Get His ? SA really has no defensive answer for Chauncey Billups. He’s the one guy who has forced their defense to move and react but he?s been holding the ball waiting for Rip to come off staggered screens. That stuff takes too long to develop. In case you hadn’t realized, Bruce Bowen fighting through screens is like the T-1000 from Terminator 2 chasing that car while being peppered with bullets. He’s only momentarily fazed. He recovers so quickly that he’s turning good shots on paper into forced shots on the floor. The only open mid-range jumpers you’re going to see will be off penetrate-and-kick type plays. So let Chauncey initiate the offense by looking to beat his man first rather than waiting for Hamilton to come off staggered screens. This potentially opens up Rip to play off Billups’s penetration. Force Pop to switch Bowen onto Billups because whoever else guards Rip, even if it’s Ginobili, is a much better matchup for Rip than Bowen. Also, by running things through Billups you?re now telling Ben and Rasheed, ?Just go get yours off the glass.? They?ve been reasonably effective rebounding in the first two games but they’re doing a lot of standing around, setting picks.
  • Play your Bench Earlier ? Larry, you must go deeper into your bench for two reasons. First, your starters are worn down and fatigue makes cowards of us all. They’ve been slow to rotate not only because they’re gassed but your lack of faith in your bench has made it clear that there’s little point in rotating only to pick up a foul. (It’s also, in part, what’s got them grousing about every doggone call.) Now Spurs are running leisurely through the lane. It?s one thing when Ginobili goes to the tin unimpeded; it?s something entirely different when it?s Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, and Beno Udrih. Larry, you must rotate guys in and keep your key players fresh. Second, the guards on your bench, Lindsey Hunter and Carlos Arroyo, can only help you if you pick up the tempo. You don’t want to get into a track meet but you need to score in the 80s to have a chance. You must at least probe for some easy baskets before SA sets its defense.

These things and some good home cooking might get a better effort for four quarters out of your guys. But you sitting around after game 2 griping to the press about how they didn’t rotate… that… that was just ugly. You’re better than that.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

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