Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Don't heed Sheed

Rasheed Wallace isn't a bully. He's just a mouthpiece for what has become a very arrogant Pistons team.
And can you honestly blame him or them? They have an NBA title, two Eastern Conference titles and a 64-win season to their credit over the last three years.
Nobody in the East has been able to stop the Pistons since 2003. Why wouldn't they walk around with a certain air of invincibility?
So when Wallace stated matter-of-factly that the Cavaliers' season was going to end with Game 5 of the teams' second-round series, he was in his own mind stating an inevitability. The proven teams like Miami and New Jersey hadn't been able to stop Detroit's looting and pillaging in the playoffs, so where does anybody get off thinking the Cavs and LeBron James, their 21-year-old, non-playoff-tested superstar, were going to put a dent in Detroit's title bid?
Rasheed's teammates met his comments with the same straight-faced approach.
In a nutshell, they responded, "Yeah, he said it. We've backed him up before, and we'll do it again."
The Sun rises in the East. The human body is 70 percent water. The Pistons will make good on Wallace's victory guarantees. In Detroit, it was that simple. Three times, Wallace guaranteed a playoff win, and three times the Pistons made good. It wasn't even like Wallace was sticking his neck out anymore.
Then came Monday night. And it wasn't like clockwork..
The Cavs didn't really surprise the Pistons in winning 74-72 and tying the series at 2-2. They slogged it out and emerged on top in what was a lackluster second half for both teams.
At one point, Detroit missed nine straight shots. And unlike Saturday's win, LeBron didn't really shoulder the load for Cleveland down the stretch. He had a single-digit fourth quarter and finished with 22 points, eight behind Rip Hamilton's game-leading 30.
LeBron helped win the game by playing pitch-and-catch with Anderson Varejao for inside buckets, by finding Donyell Marshall open for a pair of late-game three-balls. His individual performance (8-for-23 field goals, 5-for-10 free throws, 8 assists, 9 rebounds in 48 minutes) buzzed triple-double territory, but was not as dominant as Game 3.
For the second straight game, the Cavs played the Pistons' brand of knock-down, drag-out basketball and beat them at it. But the games like Game 4 -- the kind that devlove into Greco-Roman wrestling matches -- are the type of games the Pistons have built their reputation on. Winning those kind of games is how Detroit has built their tremendous success over the past several years.
Those are the type of games the Pistons have let slip away Saturday and Monday. On Monday, they couldn't even blame it on a spectacular fourth quarter by LeBron.
After Monday's game, Wallace modified his guarantee, saying there is "no way in hell" Cleveland is going to win this series.
Granted, the Cavs still have to find a way to win at least one game at the Palace of Auburn Hills to win this series. And playing the Pistons at the Palace is an entirely different proposition than playing them on your turf. So Wallace still isn't out of line in guaranteeing a series win.
But given LeBron's history of making his doubters and critics eat their words, and the fact that the Cavs seem to be becoming playoff-hardened veterans right before our very eyes, one has to wonder the wisdom of Wallace's repeated assertions.
Sooner or later, guaranteeing a Piston win isn't going to be as simple as tying your sneakers and taking the court. Somehow, I think LeBron is going to have a hand in that.

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