AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—The Detroit Pistons might be the most resilient team in the NBA.
They’ve bounced back from a 3-2 deficit to win a playoff series in each of the last four postseasons, consistently showing they’re at their best when behind. Just like they are now in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Miami Heat beat Detroit 91-86 in Game 1 and snatched home-court advantage away from the top-seeded team in the NBA playoffs.
Game 2 is Thursday night at The Palace before the series goes to Miami for the next two games.
Heat guard Gary Payton said Miami can’t get cocky because he has not seen a team in his 16-year-career, which includes 14 postseasons, that has had success the way the Pistons have.
“They’re the first ones that get behind, then go to somebody’s place and win, like they did last year in Game 7 in Miami,” Payton said Wednesday. “I’ve never seen another team do that.”
Detroit was down 3-2 against Cleveland in the second round and faced the same deficit versus Miami in last year’s conference finals, New Jersey in the second round two years ago and Orlando in the first round in 2003—with four of their current starters.
“We get down a lot, but we’re never out,” point guard Chauncey Billups said. “It’s not over till it’s over for us, no matter what the circumstance is, no matter what the number is in the series—3-1, 3-whatever. Until it’s four, we’re never out.”
While the Pistons have a history of comebacks, they have a trend working against them in this series.
The last time they lost a Game 1 was in the NBA Finals last year, when they fell to San Antonio in seven games as defending champions. The last time the Pistons lost the first game of a series at home was the conference finals in 2003 when they were swept by the Nets.
Pistons reserve Tony Delk hopes the Pistons have not fallen behind one too many times.
“Sometimes you dig a hole that you can’t get out of,” he said.
During Detroit’s previous three trips to the conference finals, it relied on defense and a deliberate offense to beat teams. Flip Saunders, the third coach of the Pistons in four years, loosened the reigns on offense while helping them keep up their stingy ways at the other end of the court.
That seemed to work well during the regular season as Detroit won a league- and franchise-best 64 games, and earlier in the postseason.
The Pistons averaged 107 points through the first seven games of the playoffs, but since being up 2-0 against Cleveland in the second round, their scoring has plummeted to 80 a game and they’ve shot 39 percent or worse in three of six games.
“Shooting slumps happen for a number of reasons, the No. 1 reason is sometimes you lose a little bit of your confidence,” Saunders said.
The Pistons seem to lack some intangibles, like the ability to play with a sense of urgency when they’re not down in a series, but it doesn’t appear possible to rattle them.
“We’re not worried,” said Rasheed Wallace, who had just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 1. “We’re not going to stay in a funk forever.”
The Pistons say they got the shots they wanted and normally make, but simply hit rim rather than net. The backcourt of Billups and Richard Hamilton combined to shoot 15-of-41, forwards Wallace and Tayshaun Prince missed 15 of 23 shots and the team combined to make just 38 percent of its shots.
The Heat insist they had something to do with that.
“We took them out of their rhythm by challenging shots,” Antoine Walker said. “We didn’t let them get comfortable.”
Detroit is confident it can fare better in Game 2 because it lost by five despite playing poorly. The Heat are feeling good because they won despite superstars Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal being slowed by foul trouble.
“I’m sure they feel like they can play better, but we do, too,” Walker said. “They can’t afford to go down 2-0, but even if they do, we know that we’ve got to finish the job against them because they’ve proven they’ll never give up.”