Thursday, June 01, 2006

Eastern Conference Finals Recap (Game 5)

PISTONS/HEAT (Game 5): Pistons 91-Heat 78

- The Pistons were determined not to be eliminated on their home floor, and their activity on both ends kept their season alive. But even with the improved play of the Pistons, the game was much closer than it appeared and the Heat were within 3 points in the middle of the 4th. Miami had to feel somewhat encouraged at halftime by only being down by 4 points when it felt like Detroit totally controlled every aspect of the game. Miami could have been even closer at the very end of the 4th, but they were killing themselves at the free throw line by missing 14 shots, this after they missed 19 in Game 5.

- The Pistons definitely came with a purpose on both ends of the floor in Game 5. They were much more active and aggressive in their play from the opening tap. They got more movement working consistently and just got a great well-rounded effort from all the Pistons. Offensively, Tayshaun was the linchpin for the whole game, and he did damage in a variety of ways. Prince was hitting threes, mid-range jumpers, finishing at the rim, posting on the right block--he finished with 29 pts. on a superb 11/17 shooting & 7 rebs. as well. He seemed to make a big play everytime the Heat were creeping closer, especially with the 3pt. make off a Shaq block to push the lead to 6 late in the 4th. Although Rip did not shoot a good percent (7/21), he still showed a very determined attitude by attacking the basket with an unexpected gusto, and taking the ball right at Shaq. Rip also brought the aggressiveness to the glass by procuring 10 boards. Billups had a solid floor game by constantly looking to find guys all over the half-court--he finished with 10 assts & 17 pts. McDyess chipped in off the bench with 12 points on perfect shooting (5/5). Another big key was the re-emergence of Big Ben being a force on defense and also adding a little spark on offense. Ben was just covering a ton of ground on the defensive end in help situations, but also did a tremendous job one-on-one on Shaq not letting him get too many deep post-ups. Not to mention a world-class block on Shaq, which was one of his 3 blocks to go along with 8 pts. & 7 boards (4 off.). All in all, the Pistons' defense did the best job in this series containing Wade and seemed to challenge his shot at the rim better; they really looked to make a concerted effort to rotate onto Dwyane faster. They especially did not let him go off in the 4th quarter and did a great job on the whole Miami squad in the 4th holding them to only 13 points.

- The Heat defense was pretty solid once again and really was not the crux of their problems in Game 5. They only let the Pistons shoot 43% overall and continued to keep the 3pt. makes down (Pistons only had 2), and did a good job of contesting shots all game. What ended up really costing the Heat came at the offensive end--free throws & turnovers. The Heat shot an atrocious 6/20 in Game 5, and it was not all because of Shaq, who only shot 5 attempts overall (he was 1/5). The Heat have not been too sharp on the line this series by shooting 63% overall. Another major problem inflicting the Heat in this series is turnovers--they had 16 total TOs in Game 5, which pushed the average per game in the series to 16.8. You wonder if this will ultimately bite them in the buttocks in the next two games, something to keep an eye on. Neither Shaq or Wade was too dominant in this contest thanks in part to the Pistons' active defense. Shaq got in early foul trouble, and looked a little hesitant in the 2nd half to go with too much force in the paint, although he was still pretty nimble on the defensive end again--he finished with 19 pts. on 9/15, but had 5 TOs. Wade never really went too crazy in this game and could not get where ever he wanted, like he had been doing for most of the series--Wade ended with 23 pts & 4 assts. This was a game where the Heat role players definitely needed to pick up the slack, but they could not produce enough secondary offense--the Heat not named Shaq or Wade shot a combined 33%.

- For the remainder of this series, the Pistons need to bring this same urgency and continue to get the movement on offense flowing. The Heat have to feel pretty good about this loss cause they still did a good job keeping the game close when it felt like the Pistons were in total control and actually looked much better offensively than they have. What the Heat have to be concerned with is taking better care of the ball and converting their free throws. These two factors could come back to haunt them if they're not careful.

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