Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pistons Make No Mistake By The Lake, So There'll Be Seventh Heaven

The Pistons players and coaches traipsed up to the podium after Game 6, one after the other, and one question became a running theme:

"Do you think the Cavaliers played tight in the fourth quarter?"

Rasheed Wallace had perhaps the best answer, actually.

"Well, LeBron [James] was the only cat who seemed to want to shoot, so take from that what you will," Rasheed said -- and it was a rare occasion that he asked the reporters to decipher his words. Sheed usually crams his meaning into their craniums.

But I was amused by the question, in the wake of the Pistons' heart-stopping 84-82 win -- a "must win", those ancient words.

The way I saw it, the Cavs were one measly defensive rebound away from putting the Pistons on the ropes. So take from THAT what you will.

I don't know if the Cavs played tight, but I saw the Pistons miss an awful lot of shots in the last minute or so. Wallace -- three misses, including a free throw. Chauncey Billups, a missed free throw. Yet the Pistons cleared the boards on just about every occasion, ripping the heart out of the Cavs.

All that, and Cleveland still managed to put a scare into the Pistons -- James' purposely-missed free throw nearly getting tipped in at the buzzer. And every time I saw the replay of that final play, my heart crept closer toward my throat. Man, was that close!

But ultimately credit should go to the Pistons -- whether you feel Cleveland played tight or not. It was one of those gut-wrenching, grind-it-out games the Pistons have been famous for playing, and in the most dramatic of situations. They went into lockdown mode, and perhaps all those offensive rebounds at the end were more than just the ball bouncing their way. Maybe they willed those boards. No lie. Championship-caliber teams come up with championship-caliber plays in the most needed of times. And five offensive rebounds in the game's final 90 seconds would qualify, I'd say.

Now here we go again: The Cavs are being counted out already, in Game 7 Sunday. Three straight wins and nearly a fourth over the Pistons, and still Cleveland is basically being told that Game 6 was their chance to win the series. You may have won Game 5 in Detroit, Clevelanders, but you can't steal Game 7. Six games into a series, and some folks never learn.

I do think the Pistons will win, and it may even be a blowout, because sometimes these things end that way for the favorites. But to think the Cavs are going to come into the Palace and lay an egg is unrealistic. Games 3 thru 6 have taught them that they can play with the Pistons -- in Michigan and in Ohio.

Let's hope those games taught the Pistons the same thing.

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