Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Monday, May 09, 2005 at 11:40 AM

Fight Night returns to the Palace - winner takes all in best of seven rounds.

The series to end all series, the brawl reborn, the battle of battles, the… all right, you get the point. Look, I said it before and I will say it again, this is not the series I wanted. To repeat myself yet again, it has nothing to do with the fear of the Pistons losing; there is no way that should happen. My greatest fear is what the Pistons will have left in the tank after this series is over, physically and emotionally, and who the Pacers will cheap shot and injure. So here, in a nut shell, is my look at the Second Round Series against the Indiana Cry Babies, I mean Pacers.

The starting line up – if you take away Jermaine O’Neal, the Pistons are better hands down at every position. Jermaine O’Neal and Dale Davis are the starting “bigs” for the Pacers, up against Ben and ‘Sheed for the Pistons. Either of the Pistons guys that guard O’Neal, I would give it to ‘Sheed, will make an interesting match up all series. So for the sake of argument, let’s go with ‘Sheed on O’Neal that will be fun to watch. The two of them will just about neutralize each other and make for some competitive basketball. Ben will embarrass Dale Davis, a veteran in his own right but he won’t be able to keep up with Ben all series long. Take your pick here at point guard – Chauncey Billups or Jamaal Tinsley. If any of you actually answered Tinsley then shame on you, go get your head checked. Next we go to Rip and Reggie, what can you say there? Reggie is still capable of that “sniper” night, but I think after chasing Rip around through screens for four quarters he may tire come crunch time, so again I take a Piston starter. Next we have Prince and Stephen Jackson – can he even guard Tayshaun? As long as Prince stays aggressive and LB calls plays for him, the Pistons will win that match up as well. Basically, aside from Jermaine O’Neal, the Pistons have the edge everywhere in the starting five.

The bench – I think the Indiana bench can best be summed up as “The Great White Hope”, as in Austin Croshere, Jeff Foster and Scot Pollard and then some CBA guys in Freddie Jones, Anthony Johnson and some other Jones. The Pistons have (should have been comeback player and sixth man) Antonio McDyess, Lindsey Hunter, Carlos Arroyo (who will get more time now that A.I. is gone) and I guess you can throw in Darvin Ham too. Look, the Pistons bench will see more minutes this series and will contribute more, make no mistake about it. Sorry, the “Whitey’s” and the Jones’ on Indiana’s bench are no match for the Pistons, end of story.

The coaches – our last “ex” coach in Carlisle against our next “ex” coach in Brown, as in probably after this season. Not even a contest here, although I still think the job Carlisle did this year is deserved of Coach of the Year honors, believe it or not. But as long as Larry Brown is coaching against anyone, I will always give the edge to LB, he has seen it all, done it all and owns the rights to writing a book on coaching. End of story there as well.

Now that we have that out of the way, let me talk on the couple things that scare me. The first is obviously reliving the brawl, the bomb scare and anything else bad that comes this way with this series. If there was going to be anything that may give the Pacers an edge in this series it would be this. I have said it all along that, on paper, there is nothing the Pacers can possibly do to beat the Pistons in a best of seven series. However, as in all sports, you can take all that paper crap and put it in the garbage, it means nothing. This may be the one thing that is the Pistons undoing, the emotional strain that reliving this brawl may take on them. If the Pacers can use it to their advantage in any way, shape or form it may spell doom for the Pistons and be too much for them to overcome. I guess only time will tell, but hopefully it will not be the Pistons undoing, hopefully by now it has been long enough and it will not bring the boys down, but we will have to see.

Next, as I mentioned before, is what seems to be the pure thug mentality the Pacers have when it comes to this season. They have walked around all year with a chip on their shoulder and that chip is the “Pistons ruined our entire season before it started” chip. If the Pistons take care of business and do what they should do, this series should be over in five or six games easy. But once they take control and once the Pacers realize it, who’s to say they won’t try to take a Piston out? I don’t trust Stephen Jackson, I don’t trust Jamaal Tinsley, Freddie Jones or any of the “Whitey’s” coming off that Pacer bench. Maybe I am going to extremes, maybe I am reaching, but I really don’t put it past any of the Pacers to try and take a starter out for a long period of time, quite possibly the rest of the playoffs. Look, the Pistons should seize control of this series if all the “paper” crap goes the right way, like a 3-1 series lead, sorry, I can honestly see a little goon, thug type tactic coming our way. The Pistons need to take care of business right away, get through this series as quick as possible and not screw around like they did against the Sixers. They were one Willie Green free throw away from trouble in that Philly series and against the Pacers they can not do that for one second. Go for the jugular, bring on the Heat and let’s get it over with before the Pacers have a chance to play thug.

My early prediction is the Pistons in six, much like last years series. In fact, as unoriginal as it sounds, I am going to say all the games are going to be an exact carbon copy of last year. I think the Pistons will lose tonight, win games 2 and three, lose game 4 and win games 5 and 6. Yes, that is the perfect match to last year’s series, but I won some serious money on it here at the office because I predicted it perfectly and no one believed me. Hey, 50 bucks is 50 bucks, so if it worked last year let’s go with it again! I think tonight the Pacers are going to try and send a message, I think the rust will show on the Pistons and they will be down early (see Philly series, game #1 for reference) and although the Pistons will make it close at the end the hole against the Pacers will be too much to overcome. But I think tonight’s loss will be enough of a wake up call for the Pistons to get back to playing ball and it will end up being a positive for our boys. That being said, I will go with the Pistons is six (although I am teetering with five!) and we will have the match up we all have been waiting for in the eastern conference finals, Heat against the Pistons. Hopefully the Wizards will at least show up for one game and make Shaq work a little, but we only can get so much right?

Well, that is all I got for now. Until next time when we can all talk again – later! The sports dude.

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