Recently, words to this effect came from respected basketball legend and TV analyst Bill Walton. Most sports fans in Michigan would have to agree - expectations in these playoffs are very high for the team. Anything less than an NBA championship crown will stain the Detroit Pistons as a failure this year.
All season, the confident, unselfish Pistons have done whatever is necessary to win. They have the distinction of being the only dominant NBA team in memory that doesnt have a superstar player to bail them out when times are tough. No Michael Jordan to hit the last second championship shots, no Shaquille ONeil to score at will inside, no Magic Johnson to transform ordinary players around him into stars.
The Pistons core group of players (Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince) is very good but not great individually. This team is built to win in the regular season, though, not necessarily in the playoffs. Expect the Pistons to be shocked by their first round opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Impossible, you say? Dont the Bucks have a losing record? Where did Northern Express find this dope to write about sports? Here are the reasons why the Pistons are primed for failure:
First of all, the Pistons depth of personnel is not good. Before the season, Coach Saunders insisted that Darko Milicic and Carlos Delfino would log greater minutes in an effort to give the starters more rest... it didnt happen. Delfino has averaged only ten minutes per game and Milicic was sent packing to Orlando in a trade.
Detroit is the only NBA team whose starters each averaged over 35 minutes per game (NBA games last 48 minutes). Chauncey Billips, in particular, always appears worn out - a coaching decision rested him the last game of the season. Additionally, only Antonio McDyess has played significant minutes coming off the bench all season. It is too late to ask benchwarmers Lindsey Hunter, Maurice Evans, Delfino, et al to make major contributions in the playoffs - they are not conditioned or capable of it.
Secondly, Detroit didnt play the suffocating defense this year that it has in the past few seasons. Previously, their team-defense kept the game close when otherwise playing ugly. The Pistons could then engineer just enough scoring to win nip-and-tuck games. This year, the Pistons exert much more energy on offense - not conducive to clamping down defensively on opponents at will.
Also, Ill let you in on a little secret: the Milwaukee Bucks aint that bad. Lefty Michael Redd can be unstoppable when he is in a scoring zone. Point guard T.J. Ford may be too quick for Chauncey Billips to guard. 7-footer Andrew Bogut from Australia will be a load down under (the basket). Look for former MSU Spartan and Flint native Charlie Bell (where has he been for the last five years?) to come off the bench to help smother Billips at crunch time and provide significant scoring.
The Pistons have had a great run over the last few seasons. Their meteoric rise to elite basketball status has been thrilling, even heroic. Yet, this most recent era of Pistons success just passed its zenith.
Now that you have been warned, I dont want to hear any crying after the Great Fall. The Bucks will win in six games - I guarantee it.