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Game 7 Preview: Pistons at Blazers

A Look at the Pistons:

Detroit is on a nice little run to start the season, going 5-1 so far, their only loss to the Bulls on the road by 4.  Rip Hamilton is averaging 20 as usual and they've had a player top 30 points in half of their games so far.  But their calling card remains that nasty defense.  They're scoring 100.3 points per game and limiting their opponents to 90.3.  They're shooting 46.4% while their opponents are shooting a dismal 42.4%.  They rebound well, they block shots, they purloin the ball.  Just about every defensive measure you could think of favors them.

Their frontcourt remains the heart of their defensive prowess.  Rasheed Wallace, when he wants to be, is one of the best all-around defensive forwards in the league.  Tim Duncan is a better overall team defender but Rasheed probably has better individual skills.  Tayshaun Prince is quick, athletic, and bothersome.  Those two make life easy not only on the guards, but on the big Piston journeymen.  Antonio McDyess, now well past his prime, only has to worry about grabbing rebounds and making the occasional shot.

Detroit presents a large problem for Portland because they score with their wings, where our defense is weakest.  Hamilton is busting everybody's chops this year.  Besides the 20+ average he shoots 51% from the field and dishes 6.5 assists.  Chauncey Billups scores 17.5 and adds 6.7 assists.  It's a fair bet those two will be drooling at the chance to exploit our backcourt.  Athletic opposing wings have caused us no end of trouble so far, so Prince could be a nightmare too.  

Last year I described the Pistons as a cold-blooded shark that doesn't care much who you are, it just wants to feed.  Not much has changed.  This is probably going to be a long night at the Garden.  Win or lose, it won't be a pretty game.  We haven't shown yet that we can win ugly.  Tonight would be a good night to start.

What I'd Like to See:

  1.  Despite the prowess at the smaller positions the key to this game is going to be Rasheed Wallace.  When Rasheed plays distracted, disinterested ball Detroit loses.  If he's motivated then perhaps we can help his distraction level by going hard at him and getting him into foul trouble.  If Wallace has even a decent night we're going to have a very hard time winning.
  2.  If you're going to be below 100 the only way to win is to keep the opponent there too.  That means limiting easy buckets, something we did very well against Dallas the other night.  We need to rebound well at the defensive end, get back in transition, and take care of the ball.
  3.  Other than Billups I'm pretty comfortable with anyone else on the Pistons shooting the long ball.  Rip can hit them but that's not the best part of his game.  Rasheed also likes to shoot them and a steady diet of long shots by him would probably be a blessing for us even if he makes a few.  Pack the lane, disallow drives and posts, try to make them beat you over the top.
  4.  Our second unit will be critical tonight because theirs is definitely weaker than their first unit.  It'll be almost impossible to dominate their stars, but if Jack, Travis, and Sergio can get hot we might be able to make some headway in the second quarter and in the transition between third and fourth.
  5.  As far as our stars go, we need big games.  Lamarcus must stay out of foul trouble guarding `Sheed.  He also needs to try and drive past or spin around Rasheed instead of putting up that turn-around over him.  `Sheed will let him shoot that turn-around all night and bother him plenty with his length.  Brandon needs to remember that if this team has a defensive weakness it's in the backcourt.  He might not be able to drive and finish if the Piston bigs are alert but he can sure drive and find the open man.  Martell has to hit some shots too and continue playing that active defense.  There's nobody in the Pistons lineup for him to take a break guarding.
  6.  With that defense getting down big early would probably be a bad idea.  We need the same level of activity that we saw Saturday night.  (Keep in mind, though, that not being able to duplicate results game to game is a hallmark of young teams.  If the defense is good it gets that much worse.)   I'll say it again:  hustle and desire are the only departments where it's totally in our control how dominant we are.  Veteran teams play better overall, but veteran teams also take a while to gear up and are susceptible to being overrun by young, enthusiastic puppies.
Unless Rasheed takes a nosedive or gets ejected this is not a good matchup for us on paper.  We'll see how it plays out on the court.

--Dave (