Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Down 3-2, Pookie Piston? Relax And Have Fun!

Cheer up, son: the pressure's all on the Spurs

Here's a question for all of you Pistons fans to ponder as you gnash your teeth and wring your hands and fantasize of all the ways Tony Soprano might do away with Robert Horry:

When is it easier to relax, have fun, and let it all hang out in professional sports -- when the whole world expects you to fail, or when an entire city breathes down your neck, ready to crack open cases of champagne and is telling you, "Don't EVEN think of losing!"?

This is where you're supposed to say, "Ummm...the first one?"

Tell me, what percentage of this great basketball-loving country expects the Pistons to win one game in San Antonio, let alone two? How many believed that whomever won Game 5 would win the championship? How many think that, because of Game 5's classic drama, anything after it is merely something that has to be played so the Spurs can officially be crowned champions? And how come I'm asking so many questions today?

Sorry to be so inquisitive, but if the Pistons ever just wanted to toss aside all their angst, tension and just play some damn basketball, it is tonight in Game 6. They say they thrive on the "us against the world" situations and maintain they play their best ball when their backs are to the wall. Well, I'd say their backs are pretty much part of the brick and mortar right about now. Just about EVERYONE figures this series is over. You've heard the talk, the numbers: the Pistons haven't won in San Antonio since George Gervin was a rookie (okay, maybe not that long, but April 2, 1997 may as well be an eternity for some media folks), they stunk down there in Games 1 and 2, blah, blah, Blaha.

To hear some people talk -- and I'm not including Bill Walton here because the operative word was people -- the Pistons may as well not even bother showing up tonight except for the presentation of the Larry O'Brien Trophy to the Spurs so they can shake their hands.

But here's something else for them to talk about, by the way: do they know that when the Pistons split the first two games of the 1990 Finals with the Trailblazers, they hadn't won in Portland in over 15 years? Don't they remember what happened next? Didn't the Pistons sweep all three games in that Oregon town to win the championship? Why am I still asking so many freaking questions?

Anyhow, see where I'm heading here? (Another question, sorry). Okay, the Pistons haven't won in San Antonio since '97. Fine. I could quibble and say the Pistons only visit the Spurs once a season due to league scheduling, but I won't stoop to that level, even though it's true. But a friend of mine, Bob Zahari, likes to point out that such streaks are actually good omens for the streakee because, frankly, they're due. Z, you're absolutely right. Aren't the odds that the Pistons are bound to win in SBC sooner or later? Why not make it sooner?

Look, even I have my doubts about whether the Pistons can pull this off, and I'm about as optimistic of a guy as there is when it comes to our basketballers. My gut tells me this may be one hole they don't crawl out of, but who the hell am I? The Pistons have proven so many people wrong about their chances in so many playoff series the last couple of years, they'd make great defense attorneys. They're the Perry Masons of the NBA.

So here's to hoping the Pistons just stay loose, have a ball, and enjoy the hell out of tonight's game. Basketball jerseys don't have collars, but don't for a moment think the Spurs won't feel their throats tighten the longer the Pistons hang around. And if you think the pressure should be on the Spurs to finish the Pistons in Game 6, what the heck do you think it will be like during a Game 7?

Then we can all say, "The Spurs haven't beaten the Pistons in San Antonio since June 12, 2005."

I don't know about you, but Z and I think those aren't very good odds. Not a long enough streak.

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