Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eastern Conference Finals Recap (Game 3)

PISTONS/HEAT (Game 3): Heat 98-Pistons 83

- The Heat totally controlled every aspect of this game on both ends. It was hard to believe this game was close in the middle of the 4th quarter. After Billups hit a couple threes to pull the Pistons within one point, you were really wondering how in the world the Heat were in trouble, considering they seemed to be totally outplaying Detroit the whole game. At that point, I think the Heat realized that fact as well, and made sure they were not going to blow a game in the final minutes that was their game for the taking from the opening tap.

- There wasn't much that went wrong with the Heat offense in Game 3. They shot a blistering 58.2%, throttled the Pistons in the points/paint battle 50-16, and grabbed 11 off. boards while the Pistons only got 19 def. boards of their own. Much of the damage was done by the two Miami superstars: Shaq & Wade. Wade had another MVP-type performance, where he seemed to get any shot he wanted against the supposed, vaunted Pistons' defense. Again, he got great looks all over the floor, leading to 35 pts on a ridiculous 13/17 shooting. Shaq brought the damage in the paint on both ends. He finished a little stronger in Game 3 than he did in Game 2, ending up with 27 pts. on 11/15 & 12 rebs. (6 off.). He also continued his newfound nimbleness on defense by moving around pretty well--he even challenged a couple pick/rolls. The Heat role players were solid, not great. in a game they were not really needed too much cause of the dominant play of Shaq & Wade. Walker had a very good floor game where he was not settling for his usual perimeter "volume shooting". Instead, Antoine decided to attack the basket, which not only led to 11 pts., but also 4 assts (two of which were nice lobs to Shaq). Haslem also pitched in with 10 pts. & 7 boards. I guess the only fault with the Heat in Game 3, was they commited 18 TOs--this is a minor concern after they commited the same amount in Game 2 & 15 in Game 1. I should not forget to add that I thought the Heat defense put in another solid effort. Riley has really turned their defense around since the last couple games of the Chicago series, after they were getting shredded on the perimeter.

- After the Pistons looked fairly competent offensively in Game 2, they reverted back to their ragged ways that have been plaqueing them since early in the Cavs' series. They shot 42.2% from the field and Billups was the only Piston to have much of an impact on the game. Chauncey actually had the type of game you were waiting for from him--31 pts on 11/17 & 4/5 from 3pt. range. Billups was the prime catalyst for the Pistons making the Heat sweat in the 4th quarter, it just did not seem the rest of the Pistons were along for the ride. Hamilton had a solid game with 20 pts., but again he did most of his damage in the 1st half & he only shot 40% overall. Big Ben had a very subpar game by his standards and was totally a non-factor on the offensive end. This might have to do with the fact that Riley is going with a "Maul-a-Wallace" plan, thus Ben is very skittish touching the ball on offense. Detroit's defense was not quite up to snuff either. They just don't seem to be rotating with same zeal that was their trademark for the last couple years; maybe they really do need Larry Brown more than anybody thought. Maybe in retrospect, the Pistons' defense is not as good as usual, and maybe why they looked so good in the Cavs' series was because the Cavs' offense is fairly one-dimensional; their defense was nothing special in the reg. season. I am not sure I am quite ready to accept this theory, but it's worth considering. The Pistons have let the Heat shoot 58% & 56% in their two wins.