Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Thursday, June 09, 2005 at 8:48 AM

History has a way of “repeating” itself.

Well, here we are, on the brink of the NBA Finals. Just for a moment let’s reflect on all the crap, all the garbage, that these Pistons have endured this season to get to this point. From day one this season every opponent came at the Pistons with their “A” game. They were no longer the hunter, but the hunted. Early on in the season it showed – the Pistons were not prepared to handle it. Then we all know about the brawl, so there really is no need to recap that too much. All I will say is the brawl stained the Pistons image – they went from “the right way” to “Malice at the Palace”. They never got to enjoy the respect they earned last season, the Cinderella tag was erased too quickly. Then there were the disappearing acts of Larry Brown to contend with. His first hip surgery leave of absence at the beginning of the season and the second one later in the year. The Elden Campbell issue with the Nets, whom picked him up only to screw the Pistons over no matter what they say. Also, didn’t it seem like anytime a coached got fired that Larry Brown was being touted as that teams next coach? New York, the Lakers, Portland, some high school team in New Hampshire – the list goes on! Then there was the Cleveland thing this post season on top of it, what the hell is next? There is only so much adversity a team can handle and it seemed to be coming from every direction. However, after all that crap, after all the controversy, we are where we felt we would be all season long – back in the Finals defending our title – and those ridiculous looking belts from Rasheed!

All that looking back aside, let us actually take a look forward now to the NBA Finals between the Pistons and the Spurs. In order to do that I would like to refer to the title of this post and talk about the “repeating” of history here in this playoff run. This whole playoff run has been a damn near blue print of last years run, let me explain. Last year it was the Bucks in round 1, this year the Sixers. The final result of both of those series was a 4-1 Piston victory, both losses being when Detroit seemed to get bored and fall asleep against their opponent. The next team in the equation is the Indiana Pacers, again both times it was the Pistons winning 4-2. Lastly we have the Miami Heat, whom I linked in my Heat/Pistons preview to the Nets when I saw this pattern taking place. That is right folks; I predicted the Pistons winning the series in seven games against the Heat, if you don’t believe me check it out here. The Pistons took care of their biggest obstacle last year, the Nets, losing game #5 and having to win the last two. This year it was the Heat and the exact same obstacle. Last year it was having to go to Jersey for game #6 and winning in a place where we had lost our past four (if I remember correctly) playoff games. This year it was doing the exact same thing, except that the obstacle was game #7 on the road! Come on, doesn’t anyone else think this is a little strange? The only series now missing from the puzzle is the “five game sweep” from last year in the Finals over the Lakers. However, as much as I love my Pistons, as much as I love this “repeating” trend that seems to be taking place, it may stop here because I think the Finals will be different this year. Again, to “toot” my own horn, if you look here at my preseason prediction, I said Detroit and San Antonio in the Finals with the Pistons winning in six. I have been lucky so far, so I guess that is the pick I will go with, but a seventh game is not unlikely either. Like I said in that preseason prediction post, history has a way of “repeating” itself. The last time the Pistons won, it was a back to back in 1989 and 1990. Therefore I said they would do it again this year. In 1989 it was against the Lakers in a sweep, in 2004 it was against the Lakers in a “five game sweep”. In 1990 it was against the Blazers and this year it will be against the Spurs. The only connection I can find between those two is that they both have black and white as their main colors in their uniforms. Weak I know, but it is the best I got! Well, now that we have looked at all the history leading up to this point let us actually get to some of the match ups in the upcoming series.

Point Guards – Billups and Parker.

These two are really a toss up, believe it or not. Parker may be the faster of the two, but Billups is quick in his own way and a lot bigger then Parker. Parker thrives on the dribble penetration, Billups on using his size to back in or shooting a three. Billups needs to keep Parker in front of him the best he can, but also be aware that he will be sending Parker into the Wallaces’ if he gets by. Parker has been known to be out of control at times and sometimes loses focus. Billups, although he does take ill advised shots from time to time, is beyond that point in his career. I give the edge here to Billups because he has the size, he has the poise and because of one other word – “CLUTCH”.

Prince against Manu.

This really is not a positional match up, their shooting guard against our small forward, but this makes the most sense for the Pistons. This is what Prince does, he guards the opposing teams most explosive offensive threat, as long as they are not a center anyway! Offensively Manu obviously has the advantage, but he is going to have to work extremely hard to get the points. Prince has the length to play off of him and still get in his face on jumpers, while allowing him some space if Manu decides to put it on the floor. If Manu guards Prince, which I will bring up again in a moment, Prince clearly will have a huge advantage in the post and I hope the Pistons exploit it. If Manu is forced to play some defense and get banged by Prince a little in the box maybe it will slow him a little on the offensive end. However, I will give the edge to Manu and the Spurs here because, quite frankly, although he will have to earn it, Manu is simply that good.

Rip against Bowen.

Bowen is to the Spurs what Ben is to the Pistons – play defense and only score when absolutely necessary. However, to play on Rip’s own words and his “This is what we do” mantra, I will say this about Rip – “This is what he does.” Rip loves when the opposing team sends a premiere defender at him, he loves the challenge and seems to rise to new heights when it is presented to him. Need I remind you of last years Eastern Conference Finals and the “fraudulent” Defensive Player of the Year in one Ron Artest? Rip owned him that series, abused him so bad that all Artest could do in the closing moments of game #6 was cheap shot Rip in the face. Now Bowden is not the dirty player Artest is, but he is one hell of a defender to say the least. He bothered Rip during the regular season into a couple of lousy shooting nights (4-14 and 4-12 in a 1-1 regular season series split), but the stakes are higher now. I expect Rip to rise to the occasion, I expect him to come out and “do what he does” and expect him to be successful in this series. Although Bowen is a great defender, here I give the edge to Rip and the Pistons, although just like Manu, Rip is going to have to earn it.

Now, in a side note to the above two match ups, if the Spurs go another route and do Manu on Rip and Bowen on Tayshaun, again the Pistons will need to exploit it. I feel Prince will have a distinct advantage over Bowen down low with is length and Manu will have his hands full chasing Rip all over the damn court through screens and such. I would be surprised if the Spurs went that way simply because the energy Manu will have to use at both ends of the court, but again, that is why I am a blogger and not a coach!

The Big Men.

The last four guys I am going to mention, the final match ups if you will, I think I will really just cluster into on big group – the big men. That is, we have our Wallaces’ and they have Tim and Mohammed. Quite frankly, I am not too sure who is going to defend whom in that whole mess. Quite frankly, as far as I am concerned, neither of the Spurs two “bigs” can handle Rasheed, that is as long as Silly ‘Sheed doesn’t show up. Rasheed will own Mohammed down low and confuse the hell out of him when he steps out for three. Tim Duncan, he is going to get his no matter what you do, but Rasheed at least has the height and length and Ben has the muscle to make him earn it. If Duncan is on Rasheed then that will take him away from the basket for rebounds and such because Rasheed can hit the three. But if Mohammed is on Rasheed, well, I already said it, ‘Sheed will have his way. I would expect Duncan to follow Ben and Mohammed to be on Rasheed, and vice versa, but again what the hell do I know? Anyway, this match up I call dead even – the Spurs have the “star” in Duncan, but our two Wallaces’ equal that one star. Mohammed, he is a none factor in the equation, that is why I call it even.

The benches.

McDyess, Hunter, Arroyo, Campbell against Horry, Barry, Robinson and Nesterovic.

To me, McDyess is like an extension of the starting line up and is playing with such passion right now that his smile says it all. Seriously, this cat all but admitted he figured he was going to be sitting at home watching the Finals, most likely retired, not playing in them. The smile on his face after game #7, it was like a kid on Christmas morning, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get that smile to go away. As far as I am concerned, he gives the Pistons an edge right there off the bench the Spurs can not match. Larry Brown will have to use his bench more than just two deep and something tells me that, on this stage against his best friend he will. Hunter is a great on the ball defender and key to the Pistons press and Arroyo, who played many games against the Spurs as a member of the Jazz, can come in and give energy and excitement with his ability to create. Campbell, as always, will just be in there to bang up Duncan and use his fouls wisely because that is what he does. For the Spurs Horry has a handful of rings, and by that yes I mean exactly five, and he is what Rasheed is – a “big” who likes to shoot the three and extend the defense. Barry is just like his brother, the former Piston Jon Barry, a fiery guy who loves to spot up and shoot the three – it must run in the family or something! Glen Robinson can still score some, but is not what he used to be and Nesterovic used to be a starter until the Spurs traded for Mohammed at the deadline. All in all I like the make up of both benches, but the edge, in my view, goes to the Pistons for one reason – the smile I saw on McDyess’ face after game #7.

The coaches – the best friends – the “guru’s” – Pops against LB.

This will be the ultimate chess match, mentor against student, best friend against best friend. This will be a much better coaching match up than last year simply because there is an actual coach on the opposing teams’ bench, not a “hop on the band wagon of the leagues best players” coach like Phil Jackson was. And, for the record, I use the words “coach” and “Phil Jackson” in the same sentence very loosely. These two are best friends, Pop was the Best Man in LB’s wedding, this is a dream come true for both of these guys. The two teams are a mirror image of one another and I expect this series to come down to not so much the players on the floor but the adjustments that are made between games by these guys. There is no edge, this can only be a tie and I will leave it at that.

Well, I have rambled and ranted for quite a few paragraphs now, so I guess I will close with my “official” prediction. As I said before, so much luck has come my way with my preseason predictions and such, I guess I will stick with my guns and say the Pistons in six. Although, quite frankly and apologizing for doing some back pedaling here, I would not be surprised if this thing went the full seven. That being said, my gut tells me the Pistons will earn a hard fought split in the first two games and come home and take two out of three from the Spurs. That’s right folks, we will go back to San Antonio with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to, yet again, close out a series on the opponents floor. Will it be in game #6 or in game #7 that is the only question that remains to be seen. Game, set, match – let’s here it one more time folks:


Pistons in six, thanks for reading my novel here, good bye and god speed – the sports dude.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005 at 10:13 AM

"Finals" thought.

Well, I really don't want to preview the Spurs/Pistons yet, that will come tomorrow. I just want to sit back, take it all in and be glad the series is over. As predicted by me a couple weeks ago (you can see the original post prediction here) the Pistons won in seven. I am glad I don't have to see 'Zo snarl anymore, I am glad we took it to Shaq yet again and I am glad we get a good Finals to watch. (Plus, I am extremly happy I don't have to see commercials for "Into The West", "The Closer" or that weird "Wanted" show any longer. Damn TNT, get over yourselves!) Seriously, even with a healthy Wade, the Heat would have been swept or lost in five to San Antonio. The Pistons match up better and will play the Spurs closer. Besides, it is the style of basketball that I crave - defense, low scoring and ugly. Like I said, I never watch any of the Western Conference Playoffs because I find that style boring - final score 133-132. That sucks if you ask me! Give me the 89-87, bloody and bruised style, that is basketball. And folks, that is what this Finals is going to be - five, six, seven games worth of defense. Expect a chess match that will be the most amazing you have ever seen between two good friends, Popovich and LB. Much better than last years coaching match up because these two guys are actually coaches, not frauds that just ride star players like Phil Jackson.

Well, this validated it for me, I am glad they moved on. Even if they lose to the Spurs, at least they returned to the Finals. I was so afraid of hearing the media label the Pistons title last year a fraud, a fake, a phony. You know that if they lost to the Heat that is what it would have been. But this puts a sock in all the critics and doubters mouths, this puts a boot up all their back sides and this let's them know that this is a legitimate team. Look at the way they did it? Down 3-2, winning game #7 on the road, plus Wade looked pretty good to me last night so don't bring that injury crap. Winning game #7 on the road, how real is that? Well, according to the stat geeks, only about 18% real, give or take. Well, the Pistons took it, end of story.

Oh, one last thing, here is my Pistons season prediction post from November 8, 2004. Some of the playoff teams are wrong for each conference, but scroll down to the bottom and you will see that I picked Ben to get his defensive player of the year award back and I have the Spurs and Pistons in the Finals. My pick back then was Pistons in six, let's see if I stick with that tomorrow when I preview the Finals for real. Hey, I made those picks eight months ago - a brother can "toot his own horn" right?


Monday, June 06, 2005 at 9:52 AM

Game 7 - all or nothing now!

No excuses, no crying, no finger pointing, no refs. That is all I really need to say, it is as simple as that. They need to lock everything else out and get it done. You know the calls will be there for Shaq, he is a superstar. You know that whatever Wade plays that as soon as you breathe on him the refs will give him a sympathy call. Forget about it, let it go, and don't let the refs in your head. Think about nothing but the belt, the trophy, and that Miami wants to steal it from you. Everything else is pointless, so just let it go, deal with it, use it to fire you up and move on. If it gets in your head, you go home for the offseason.

Just a couple quick thoughts here and then I got to go. Look, you all know Wade is going to play - he has to! The question is, how much can he play and how much can he do? Trust me, the cat has to play - just ask Scottie Pippen. Remember the mysterious migraine? That followed Pippen around for the rest of his career - the "soft" label. Miss this game Wade and that label is all but yours now! Even if all he can give is 10 or 15 minutes give it - or get the label kid! Personally I don't think it is as bad as the Heat are making it out to be, I think they are just trying to play with the Pistons minds a little bit more. Van Gundy figured if the refs can do it, why can't I?

Some more advice I have is to weather the storm! The first few minutes of each game have been Shaq dunks followed by more Shaq dunks, so just take it. Keep it close, stay with the Heat and come the fourth quarter the Big Fella will be tired and then take it to them! Also, take it to the hole damn it! Get some more points in the paint, get Shaq and 'Zo in foul trouble - if the refs allow it anyway! Seriously, don't be jump shooting Pistons, work it inside first and then the outside stuff will come.

Lastly, don't let "the others" beat you, as in Miami's supporting cast. If you lose then lose to Shaq, lose to Wade, but no one else. Don't let Eddie Jones, Damon Jones, Haslam, Laettner, Dooling, Butler, etc. beat you. Those guys would be riding the bench for the Pistons, so don't lose to a scrub. Let Shaq get his, it is inevitable, let Wade do as much as he can, but don't fall asleep on the scrubs. Contain them and all should be well.

All right, here it is, game #7. The series has gone exactly as I predicted so far, can I be right one more time? I said Detroit in 7, let's see if it comes true. Damn I hope so!

Later - the sports dude.

P.S. - crap, I almost forgot about this. Let's say the Pistons win, just humor me now okay? I am stressing the word "IF" and everything to, but let's just have fun for a minute here. I was joking with a guy at work this morning about the excuses label from this year to last, you know, as to the only reason why the Pistons won. Last year it was Jason Kidds' knee, Jermaine O'Neals' ankle and Kboe Bryant turning into GM-Coach-One-Man-Team-God and the Lakers self implosion. So what do we have this year? We got the Pacers without Artest, Wades' ribs so that is the only way we won, and what happens if we beat the Spurs? Well, I told the guy that Poppovich would let Larry win it as a retirement present for his buddy, so there's your excuse right there!

Peace the fork out my hearties! Deeeeeeetroit Basketballlllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!

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