Ties. I hate them. I hate everything about them. Ties are one of the many reasons that I can't stand hockey, soccer or any other game which frequently ends up without a true victor being declared. The world would be a far better place without ties.
Well, after the fourth game of the Sixers/Pistsons first-round playoff series, we stand tied. 2-2 in this series, 4-4 on the season. The similarities don't end there, the Sixers have scored 357 points so far in the series, the Pistons have scored 359. The battle of the boards? Sixers 161, Pistons 158. Assist to Turnover Ratio: Sixers 1.25, Pistons 1.31. The Pistons have a big edge in blocks (27-15), but the Sixers are dominating the steals (32-25). The similarities don't end there. Each team's best player, at least nominally, is struggling mightily. Andre Iguodala's problems are front and center on everyone's mind, but Chauncey Billups has been equally horrible. In last night's win, "Mr. Big Shot" was 4/16 from the floor, identical to Iguodala's FG numbers. On the series, Billups is shooting a paltry 29%, 21% from three. From pretty much every possible angle, this series is dead even.
So what does all this parity mean? Well, I think it means these teams are a pretty good match-up for each other. Maybe the best match-up the Sixers could've hoped for, and possibly the worst Detroit could've drawn in the first round. After last night's game the Pistons' record for the season is 61-25. Four of those 25 losses have come at the hands of the Sixers. This series has taught us that both teams can take a punch and respond, both teams can exert themselves and pull away in the second half. Both teams can make adjustments in the film room, then translate those adjustments into positive results on the court.
After four games, nothing is solved. It's been back-and-forth the entire series. Tomorrow night we'll have the ultimate tiebreaker. Whoever comes out of game 5 with the win will have a stranglehold on this series. As the series wears on Flip Saunders is demanding more and more of his big four starters. Those guys played a ton of minutes last night. At the same time, Mo Cheeks is leaning on his bench for bigger minutes, and expanding the role of rookie sensation Thaddeus Young. Will the Pistons age catch up to them in game 5 or will their experience in this type of situation outweigh the energy of youth on the Sixers' side? This is the key question going forward in the series.
It's a shame that game five will now take on this monumental weight because 24 minutes of halfway decent basketball last night would've meant a 3-1 series lead for the Sixers heading into this game. But here we are. Two teams, tied in just about every tangible way, playing a best of three series to see which intangible, energy or experience, is more potent.