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, all the time

OK, I've had time to digest what happened. I've gotten a chance to watch the "experts" break it down, so let's look a little closer.

First, not surprisingly, the experts aren't really giving the Sixers any credit for this win. The prevailing knowledge seems to be that the Pistons took the Sixers too lightly, and let the Sixers hang around when they could've put them away. I might buy that if the game was within 5 or 6 points the entire night, but the Sixers were down by 15 late in the third. The Pistons put their foot on the gas in the second half, the Sixers took their best shot and fired right back.

I was just watching TNT's wrap-up show and I saw something very telling. In front of Miller's locker Phil Jasner asked the following question of the Sixers point guard:

"Do you feel like you're playing with house money?"

Miller responded, "Say what?"

Jasner thought Miller didn't understand, so he explained further, "Do you feel like you have nothing to lose?"

Miller was not happy, here was his response, "No, we got something to lose just like they do. You know, we're here to play basketball and hopefully win. We got something to lose just like they do."

What kind of question is that? He's talking to a proud man, a guy who's left it all on the court every single night, played through injuries, shouldered more responsibility than ever before in his career and Jasner is asking him if he just feels lucky to be there? Outrageous. You have to love pulling off a huge upset win, on the road, and getting a question like that from one of your own beat writers.

This goes directly to the point I made earlier today. While everyone else has written this team off, they believe they can win. Mo Cheeks has them convinced of it. The two months of exceptional basketball they played down the stretch showed them what they have to do to win, and they can fall back on that experience now. The thing that a lot of people don't get is that while some regular-season runs are meaningless, what the Sixers did was not. They didn't just blow out bad teams. They didn't cruise through games. They fought, tooth and nail, and they developed this formula we're seeing now. Play teams even for three, keep your key guys out of foul trouble, and then defend like you've never defended before in the fourth quarter. That's not only a winning formula in the regular season, that's a winning formula in the playoffs.

Here's a look at some numbers from tonight's game:

  • Rip Hamilton, 5/17 from the floor. Continuing his poor shooting against the Sixers. (43% from the floor against the Sixers this season, 14% from three). No, this wasn't just a bad shooting night for Rip. This was the Sixers using their versatile lineup to switch the baseline screens Rip runs through and not giving him open looks.
  • Rasheed Wallace, an absolute monster of a game, but on 6 of his game-high 24 came in the paint. If you make him a perimeter player, you don't have to double him. This means less open threes for the Pistons. This is partially bad coaching by Flip, and good coaching by Mo, who switched to fronting Wallace in the second half, and especially down the stretch.
  • Antonio McDyess, 2/9 from the floor, 6 rebounds
  • Jason Maxiell, 6/8 from the floor, 12 points, 11 boards. The Sixers really had no answer for Maxiell. Flip used the young forward/center for 30 minutes to McDyess's 20, but it seemed like he was absent for long stretches. It would worry me if the kid found his way into the starting lineup, but I highly doubt Flip will have the gonads to make a move like that after a loss.
  • Chauncey Billups, Mr. Big Shot coasted through the game with this look on his face like, "Don't worry, I'm going to take this game over when I have to." The only problem is that when he had to he had Andre Iguodala draped all over him and Samuel Dalembert lying in wait when got to the rim. 3/9 from the floor, and 7/10 from the line with 3 key misses in money time.
  • Tayshaun Prince, a solid 5/13 shooting performance, and Detroit got him what they thought was a wide-open look in the final minute for the lead. The only problem was Mo substituted Thad Young for Reggie Evans and Young recovered quickly, got to Prince and challenged the jumper. Prince's shot fell well short. Prince's defense was extremely effective on Iguodala, more on him later.
  • Willie Green, a very good 28 minutes from Green whose 7/11 shooting night would've looked a lot better had he not blown a dunk and barreled into a defender for a charge instead of pulling up for a 10-footer in the lane. Again, does Willie play well against the Detroit because he's from Detroit, or does he play well against Detroit because Rip Hamilton and his horrible defense play for Detroit. I'm leaning toward the latter and I find it comical that Pistons fans think Rip's defense is under-rated. If there is a softer, more passive 6'7" player in the league, I'd love to meet him. (Adam Morrison does not count).
  • Andre Miller, I lost count of how many big shots Miller hit in the second half. In the first half he was 2/6 and having a ton of trouble with Billups, Hunter and Stuckey. In the second half, he hit big shot after big shot and took advantage of a tired Billups and an inept Hamilton time and time again. The only problem with Miller down the stretch was that Mo didn't call his number enough. His highlight of the game was his putback of a Lou Williams airball.
  • Andre Iguodala, another rough shooting night for #9, but he made a huge adjustment after the first quarter that may have saved this game. Once he realized his jumper wasn't falling, he stopped taking them. He was 0 for 4 from outside the paint in the first quarter. From that point on he only took three more jumpers. Instead he drove to the hoop and got himself to the line where he finished 8/10. He also added 9 boards, including the rebound which pretty much sealed the game, and 8 dishes, including a big feed to Lou Williams for a baseline jumper to stretch the Sixers lead to 4 with 3:28 to go. If his jumper is falling in game 2, the Pistons are going to have major problems defending him. His move of the night was a post-up on Prince out near the three point line, Miller got him the ball on the baseline side, he immediately spun, went to the hole and dunked. Prince never had a chance. Quick moves like that will negate Prince's huge wingspan.
  • Mo Cheeks, a couple of things to note about Mo. First, he went with the hot hand. Usually, he would've pulled Reggie Evans mid-way through the fourth, at the latest, and put Thad in there. He left Reggie in the game because Reggie was playing like a man possessed. He also realized that he's got a team full of young legs and plenty of days off in between games. He pushed his starters and trimmed the rotation down to 7. This is a luxury Flip Saunders does not have, although I do expect him to extend his starters. Detroit's core is old, and even the youngest of the group, Tayshaun Prince, can't handle 40 minutes at this pace because he's been babied all year. Is it ironic that Flip Saunders' season-long crusade to make sure his starters are well-rested for the playoffs has led to a bunch of players who can't go 40 minutes in a game now that they need to? I think so.
All told, it was an excellent night to be a Sixers fan. While obviously I'd love to go back to Philly up 2-0, I'm not expecting a win in game 2. The funny thing is, I kinda think the Sixers players and coaches are. More on the game two match-up over the next couple of days.
by Brian on Apr 20 2008
Tags: Basketball | Pistons | Playoffs | Sixers |