Saturday, June 03, 2006

Eastern Conference Finals Recap (Game 6)

PISTONS/HEAT (Game 6): Heat 95-Pistons 78

- The Heat flew out of the gates shooting 70% in the 1st quarter, and did not really look back the rest of the game. Shaq & Co. appeared determined to end this series in six games and the Pistons put up very little resistance to this idea. Detroit's body language and effort were not that encouraging and they seemed to be resigned to the fact that their season was over from the start of the game. And Wade's illness did not seem to matter much, because the Heat role guys stepped up to the plate in Game 6, something that needs to continue in the NBA Finals.

- Just like in Game 4, the Heat controlled every aspect of the game from the opening tap to final buzzer. Shaq seemed pretty focused that he did not want the series moving back up to Detroit, and came out of the gates with force--he was 9/11 from the field in the 1st half. Shaq also continued to look like his spry, Orlando-days' self on the defensive end, he had 5 blocks to go along with his 28 pts on a ridiciously efficient 12/14 and also 12 boards. Although, a flu-stricken Wade could not quite duplicate MJ's classic vs. the Jazz, he still managed to contribute beyond the call of duty with 14 pts. and a big 10 assts. The Heat needed their support staff to pick up the slack left from an ailing Wade, and Jason Williams jumped in quite nicely. Williams was downright scorching hot from the field by shooting 10/12, and did not miss his first shot until the 4th when a lay-up just rolled out (JWill finished with 21 pts. & 6 assts.) Haslem pitched in with another understated game with 8 pts. & 8 rebs. The Heat, not named Shaq or Wade, rebounded well from a combined 33.3% shooting performance in Game 5, to shoot a combined 51.2% in Game 6. That wasn't just it, cause Posey & Payton continued their superb play on the defensive end that they have been doing without much fanfare for the last 2 rounds of the playoffs.

-All in all, the Heat defense was very strong this entire series and has slowly recovered its reg. season form over the last 12 games or so, after being exposed early in the Bulls' series. They held the Pistons to 33.3% in Game 6, and overall only allowed Detroit to shoot 39.7% in this series, which is great. They also only allowed the Pistons to shoot 28.8% from 3pt. land after the Pistons were near the top of the reg. season leaderboard for 3pt. % with 38.4%. Another minor key for the Heat in Game 6 was that they kept their TOs under control with 12 and also did a much better job at the free throw line--11/17 after 6/20 in Game 5.

- There really is nothing positive to say about Detroit's play in Game 6, or in this series for that matter. The Pistons looked pretty lifeless on both ends and let the Heat shoot 55.7%; they let the Heat shoot 51.5% for the entire series, not very Piston-like. The offense was equally putrid once again, adding to their overall subpar play in this series, which they shot nearly 6 points lower than their 45.5% in the reg. season. The Pistons actually got a bunch of good looks in this game, but they just could not hit. Rip was the only guy who seemed to bring any aggresiveness with 33 pts in Game 6. But Rip was off from the field just like the rest of his team in this series--Rip shot 37.8% overall, he shot 49% in the entire reg. season. Sheed shot 36%, Billups hit 39% of his shots, and Prince shot the best in this series with only 44%.

-Basically in the last 2 rounds, the Pistons had chronic problems getting any type of rhythm going on offense and were a shell of their reg. season self. I am not really sure why. Was it something with Flip? Was it something with the players? Or was it just that their reg. season record was somewhat deceiving cause the Pistons were extremely lucky they had no injuries. That last fact can't not be underrated.

- I don't think the Pistons have to make too many tweaks over the summer, but they do have a big decision on Big Ben. I think there is much more debate about what to do with Ben now than what seemed like a no-brainer during the reg. season. You were reminded of how much of a liability he is on the offensive end in this series and he really allowed Shaq to be more effective on defense. Ben is also going to be 32, so the length of his contract could be a issue. You have to be cost- conscious because Billups's contract comes up next year, and point guards like him are hard to find. But if they do lose Ben, they could start McDyess in his place for the time being. Other than that, they could use a guard who could dribble-drive to exploit the hand-check rules, this is something the Pistons are missing. Also, they could use a back-up post player even if Ben stays.

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