Finally! I don’t remember being this happy about a regular season victory in a long time. But I guess that goes to show what a transformation (translation: collapse) the Pistons have undergone his season. Most “streak-ending games” for Detroit the past six seasons have been losses – today the streak-ender was a win, after the Pistons had lost eight in a row. Two things I wanna talk about in this game.

1) Detroit finally gets the win WITHOUT Iverson
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the win, but it is really unfortunate it came without AI in the lineup. As I said last week, Iverson has remained positive throughout the losses and he deserved a victory arguably more so than any other Piston. I fear too much will be made about AI’s absence in this one, and the win might be explained as a result of Rip moving to the starting position. I don’t think that’s the full story, but it’s hard to argue when Stuckey suddenly breaks out of his funk as soon as AI disappears. It’s hard to argue when you could see a dramatic improvement in chemistry on the court. Coach Curry says AI is moving to the bench, and that it was an inevitable decision regardless of Iverson’s injury. A lot of Pistons fans have been on Curry’s back lately, but credit to Curry for not being afraid to change things up (again) and stick a future Hall of Famer on the bench. I just wonder if it will really lead to continued success, or whether this game was just an anomaly.

2) Dwight Howard can’t win against these Pistons
This is the other reason why we shouldn’t make too much of AI’s absence in this win – the Pistons have a ridiculously good record against the Orlando Magic of late. Curious to see how this match up had fared the last few years, I checked Dwight’s splits against Detroit throughout his career. Here are the numbers:

  • With Dwight in the team, Orlando have gone 4-13 against Detroit since 2005
  • This does not include a 0-4 playoff sweep in 2007 and a 1-4 playoff loss in 2008 (you include those and you get an amazingly poor 5-21 record)
  • Dwight shoots only 51% against Detroit, the second lowest out of all teams (he shoots 46% against Houston, probably something to do with Yao). FYI – Dwight is a career 57% FG shooter
  • Dwight has scored above 25 points only once against Detroit
  • Only 5 times has Dwight registered more than 2 blocks against Detroit

These are quite amazing numbers, considering how dominant Dwight has been the past few years. The reason for Dwight’s struggles? I can honestly say that Sheed defends Dwight as good as anyone I’ve seen him one-on-one, we obviously had Ben Wallace earlier in Dwight’s career, and Antonio McDyess is another smart defender who seems to play Dwight well. It was amazing watching the last two playoff series we’ve had against the Magic, how ineffective Dwight has been, and how we’ve managed to deny him position on the floor. I’d like to say we just match up really well against him, but I’m starting to think that now it’s becoming psychological. Dwight knows that most of the time he plays against Detroit he loses – I wonder how much that plays on his mind? Kind of like how I know every time Detroit plays against Utah we will lose. Some teams just seem to have the edge in a match up for reasons that go beyond the line-ups and coaching tactics. This seems to be one of them.

For Orlando this could be a real problem. Go look at the standings. The Magic appear to have 3rd place wrapped up and I give them very little chance of catching Cleveland/Boston. Notice the Pistons down there in 7th spot? There is every chance that Detroit sputter to a 6th place finish out East, which to Detroit fans would have seemed like a nightmare scenario just a few months ago. Well, it’s still a nightmare scenario. Just not for Detroit.

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