Monday, May 23, 2005

Stopping Wade, Not Shaq, Key For Pistons To Turn Down The Heat

I'm telling you, the Pistons should stop the guy on the right
if they want to advance to the NBA Finals

How is it that I can have it right and everyone else have it dead wrong?

The key to this Pistons-Heat Eastern Conference Final isn't whether Shaquille O'Neal will play (he will, by the way). It isn't whether he will be effective and get his points and rebounds (he will, by the way). It's whether or not the Pistons can contain Dwyane Wade enough to win four games (they will, by the way).

Short term memory loss is perhaps more prevalent in sportswriters and other media types than in any other profession. Wasn't it less than a year ago that the Pistons let Shaq put up his numbers -- well, maybe not let -- and instead concentrated their focus on stopping Kobe Bryant? And didn't the Pistons harass Kobe into 30%-ish shooting? And didn't the Pistons win in five -- and should have won in four straight?

Those were rhetorical questions, but if you were playing along, all the answers were yes.

I don't think it's a stretch to say Wade will have far more touches of the ball in this series than Shaq. After all, there's no way Shaq will even see the ball if it doesn't first pass thru Wade's hands. So if the Pistons can use their ballhawking guards -- and forwards...and centers -- to make life uncomfy for Dwyane the moment he gets the ball, even in the backcourt, then the world champs will turn down the Heat in six games.

As Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News said on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" yesterday, "Miami isn't playing the Washington Wizards anymore." I agree. Throughout these first two rounds, I've noted that the Heat hasn't played an opponent anywhere near the quality of the Pistons, and when they do, it will be a big whiff of smelling salts into their 8-0 nostrils. The Pistons are relentless and they appear to be fine tuning their game at just the right time.

Frankly, I don't think Miami will know what is hitting them until it's too late. I foresee a 3-1 Pistons lead slashed to 3-2 in Miami, then the Palace confetti will fly for Game 6.

So talk about Shaq all you want. Wring your hands over his troublesome thigh injury. Play the odds at Vegas about whether he'll be in the lineup. Fret about him getting his points and boards.

Right church, wrong pew.

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