Chauncey went down with an injury, and with it so may have Detroit’s chances. It’s true that the Magic came out with far more intensity and energy and looked like winners even before Billups went down, but its also true that the Pistons came back to be within 4 points (after being down 20-3 at one stage) all without Billups on the floor. You put Chauncey out there and that comeback would have been complete. While most people think the Pistons still have enough firepower and balance to overcome this Magic squad, you can’t underestimate the influence Billups has, especially in this series. As Flip Saunder said: “I’m concerned because [Billups is] our quarterback; he runs our team. You saw our first two games. He’s been a huge part of why we’ve been successful — that matchup has been huge for us.” With Billups still doubtful, that is a matchup the Pistons may be without in game 4 and possibly 5, 6 and 7. I’ve seen enough Pistons games this year to know what happens without Chauncey on the floor. We become much more of a one-on-one team which invariably means more shots for Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince (which tend to be further out than they usually are), and more manic driving by Rodney Stuckey. We’re at our most vulnerable when opposition teams go on big runs (as the Magic did) and the calming influence of Billups is lost.
For the Pistons to be effective without Billups on the floor they will need to be more inside-out orientated, establishing Sheed, Maxiell and Dyess down low, and Prince needs to be more of a distributor (he’s the second smartest guy on this Detroit team who can handle the ball). Lindsey Hunter might be activated for game 4, and he’s far more serviceable than most people think. More important than all of this though, is the Pistons ability to guard Hedo and Rashard on the perimeter – they hit 8 threes between them in game 3. From all accounts Rasheed Wallace looked a bit uncomfortable guarding Lewis so far from the basket, and found himself in foul trouble often. It’s an unusual duel because both guys cause their counterparts match up problems on the offensive end – Rashard taking Sheed away from the basket, Sheed taking Rashard close to the basket. This matchup holds the key in game 4 I believe, and as many have alluded to, game 4 is the biggest game of this series. If the Pistons escape with a win its goodbye Magic. If the Magic draw even at 2-2, the Pistons will have much bigger problems than Chauncey’s hamstring.
By the way, Lakers fans, I’m not bothering to talk about the Lakers much because something tells me I’ll be blogging about them well into the Conference Finals and Finals. We’ve got plenty of Lakers ball left, trust me.
UPDATE: One reader seemed very unhappy about my recent treatment of KG, leaving this response on my Day 16 blog:
2 Votes for Maxiel for a “very energetic 12 points”, and then the next day you give ONE vote to KG for 28p, 8reb, incuding CLUTCH buckets in the final minute, and single handedly winning the game for the celts when his teammates have gone missing.
3 Votes KG.
0 Votes Maxiel
Good point Wibo. That does seem a bit unreasonable. I’m going to upgrade Kevin to 2 votes for that effort, not so much for his tremendously “clutch” 8-point fourth quarter but for the fact we probably won’t see him do that ever again. If KG had to go toe-to-toe with Lebron throughout the fourth quarter and still came up with the W then he’d get the 3 votes. But hell, when Lebron goes 0-6 over the last five minutes he’d even make my grandma look clutch.
Day 19’s Playoff MVP Votes
3 votes – Kobe Bryant (Mr. MVP now averaging 34-6-6 on 53% shooting for the entire playoffs)
2 votes – Rashard Lewis (finally, a playoff game as huge as his contract)
1 vote – Pau Gasol (20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks)
Playoff MVP Leader Board:
Chris Paul – 12 votes
Kobe Bryant – 12 votes
Lebron James – 9 votes
Tony Parker – 7 votes
Dwight Howard – 5 votes
Joe Johnson – 5 votes
Pau Gasol – 5 votes