Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Whatever You Choose To Call It, The Pistons Better Bring It Tonight

Okay, so what is it for the Pistons tonight? Put up or shut up. No tomorrow. Backs to the wall. Must win. Bring your "A" game. One quarter at a time.

Take your pick. Regardless, the Pistons are about to play one of the most important games in franchise history tonight -- Game 3 of the NBA Finals -- and if you think I'm overstating things a bit, I'm not. But of course, the Pistons have put themselves in such a position, so it's put up or shut up. Sorry -- I used that one twice.

But really, ever since they won the world championship, and before, the Pistons have been quick to point out the lack of props they get for being as good as they are. They've thrived on the "us against the world" mentality, and purport to enjoy it when they are underdogs and nobody gives them a chance. Well, guess what? They are underdogs now, very much so, and nobody gives them a chance -- not a fat one, nor a slim one.

This is one of the most important games in franchise history because this is an opportunity beyond opportunities to put your play where your mouth is and show everyone that you are not paper champions -- one year wonders who happened to be in the right place at the right time (read: the Lakers' demise). This is a chance to prove all that stuff, really prove it, about how you play better when you're pushed to the edge and how you have hearts of champions and all that other propaganda. A chance to remind everyone that the Pistons, if they go, will not go quietly and will make recapturing the NBA title as difficult of a thing the Spurs will ever do in their basketball lives. A chance to reign a little longer as champs and still keep alive the hope that this summer will be as glorious as the last.

All that pretty much goes out the window with a Game 3 loss and an 0-3 hole. Sure, you could still make a statement in Game 4 under such circumstances, but it would be one of those "who cares" statements, like something you shout to someone whose back has already been turned and who's well on their way to something much better.

There is no more time for talk about getting Rasheed the ball or how Chauncey has to get everyone, including himself, involved, or how Rip can find his shooting touch or why Tayshaun hasn't been anything or what has happened to Ben. Time's up on that. There is only time for the effort of all efforts, the return of stifling defense, and the declaration, to yourselves and your fans, that the Pistons are still the world champs until someone takes it from them. Not only takes it, but rips it from their cold, dying, gnarled fingers. But the Pistons are not dead yet. They are not even twitching. They are still very much alive.

As alive as a team can be when it has no tomorrow.

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