Boston, Cleveland and Miami. The three teams responsible for terminating the Pistons championship hopes in the last three seasons and absolutely gutting their fans. Boston in ’08 in an anti-climaxic Conference Finals, Cleveland in ’07 thanks to a Lebron miracle, and Miami in ’06 on their way to their Wade-lead championship. Go look at the next three teams on the Detroit Pistons schedule. Boston, Cleveland and Miami.
Pistons fans have arguably had to endure more post-season pain than any other the last three seasons. The pain stems from two things – the lofty expectations placed upon a team who was title-ready, and the depth of those playoff runs which of course fell one hurdle short. No other team has lost in the last three Conference Finals. No other type of fan has spent more time in June pulling the bloodied knife out of their stomach while watching Wade, Duncan and Pierce hoist their championship trophies high. These haunting images are with us every day.
And so we must now confront them, just as Scrooge had to confront the Ghosts of Christmas Past, just as Luke Skywalker had to overcome his fear of the Dark Side, and just as those girls had to eat barbecued bull penises in that Fear Factor episode.
You wouldn’t call them rivalries – neither the Celtics, Cavs or Heat were dominant for long enough to duel with the Pistons for the last six years – but there will be a fiery taste of revenge salivating in the mouths of every Pistons fan watching the next three games at The Palace. And for good reason.
The Year: 2006
The Assassin: Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade
The Scene: Detroit was the #1 team out East, had defeated the Heat in last year’s Conference Finals, and in the words of Bill Simmons were “cruising to the Finals as easily as any team since the 2001 Lakers”.
The Result: Dwyane Wade grows a third testicle and mentally, physically and psychologically dominates the Pistons in what was in effect his “coming out” party. Shaq was contained, as was the Heat’s supporting cast, which made it all the more frustrating watching Wade dismantle this proud team.
The Year: 2007
The Assassin: Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James
The Scene: Detroit was again the #1 team out East and seemed destined to meet the San Antonio Spurs in a repeat of the ’05 Finals, especially after comfortably going up 2-0 against the Cavs
The Result: Cavs level the series 2-2 before Lebron pulls off a stunt on par with Moses’ parting of the Red Sea and makes Tayshaun Prince grow boobs. His two thundering dunks to seal the game were like having two 2×4 wooden planks shoved up your ass and then rotated. The Jordan-esque parallels that ensued only served to intensify the nightly vomiting that Pistons fans endured for another four weeks. I have not watched Game 5 and I never will.
The Year: 2008
The Assasin: Boston Celtics
The Scene: Despite the Celtics regular season dominance the Pistons finished only seven games behind them, and were one of the few teams to give Boston trouble (and beat them) during the season. The Celtics took seven games to get past Atlanta, seven games to get past Cleveland, and had yet to win on the road. And Ray Allen was shooting like ass.
The Result: After doing the hard part and beating Boston at home in game 2, the Pistons gave up that advantage the very next game. The Celtics had their first road win in Game 3 and rode that momentum to finish the series in six, on Detroit’s home turf no less. Crumbling in the fourth quarter in that game six was about as humiliating a playoff exit as the Pistons have had this past decade.
If each of those outcomes wasn’t bad enough, imagine experiencing them back-to-back-to-back. It’s a wonder I’m still alive. But as I said last season, the Pistons are like a bad girlfriend, and when the new season rolls around you’re willing to give her another chance.
Watching KG, Lebron and Wade stroll on to the floor at Auburn Hills might trigger a few nightmares for Detroit fans, but apart from playoff-induced mental instability, there’s one other trait you can always associate with a Pistons fan: the stubborn belief that no matter how unlikely, or how heavily history is stacked against us, we will come out on top.
We have to believe it. It’s what got us to the top in the first place.