What's happened to the Detroit Pistons' offense?
After a season of running, scoring and excellent shooting, the Pistons suddenly look like the Rick Carlisle/Larry Brown Pistons. They're walking the ball up the floor and hardly attacking the basket at all.
Detroit averaged 97 points per game in the regular season but has failed to break 86 points in its last six playoff games. The Miami Heat are hardly a defensive force – Chicago and New Jersey scored at will on the Heat at various times in their respective series – yet the Pistons looked slow and unsure of themselves in a 91-86 series-opening loss Tuesday.
They shot 38 percent and made only five of 21 three-pointers. They also scored just 36 points total in the second and third quarters.
If there has been a question about Detroit's offense this season, it has been that it relies too heavily on jump shots, especially when Rasheed Wallace isn't on his game. In fact, the Pistons were near the bottom of the league in points in the paint.
Perhaps Wallace's ankle injury is bothering him more than he's letting on because he is definitely not in a groove right now, and it's killing the Pistons. He made just three of 10 shots for seven points in Game 1. If Wallace doesn't pick up his game in a hurry, Detroit could be in trouble.
RESERVES OF THE NIGHT
Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Antoine Walker – Twice in Miami's Game 1 victory, the bench came to the rescue. With six minutes to go in the first half, Shaquille O'Neal joined Dwyane Wade on the sidelines, each having picked up three fouls. The Heat had a three-point lead but the Auburn Hills crowd sensed a run for their Pistons, knowing Miami's stars were on the bench for the remainder of the half. Instead, it was the Heat who made the run. Payton, Mourning and Walker sparked a surge that built the lead to nine points, effectively taking the crowd out of the game and buying O'Neal and Wade valuable time. The scenario repeated itself in the second half. Wade picked up his fourth foul with 7:14 left in the third quarter, and shortly thereafter Detroit built a five-point lead. But again the Miami reserve corps came through, tightening up its defense and forcing 12 consecutive misses by the Pistons. The Heat capitalized and took command from there, rebuilding the lead they owned for most of the night. For Pat Riley, the win must be sweet. His much maligned reserves – the very ones he traded for specifically with this series in mind – came through in a big way.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Since 1990, the Game 1 winner of the conference finals has gone on to win the series 29 out of 32 times.
PLAYER OF THE NIGHT
Dwyane Wade – Despite being saddled by foul trouble and playing just 26 minutes, Wade was brilliant. He made nine of 11 shots, penetrated the vaunted Detroit defense at will and created havoc for the Pistons. Wade finished with 25 points and five assists, but his play set the tone early for a Miami team that shot 56 percent from the field. The Heat scored the game's first 11 points, rocking a Detroit team that only had one day to prepare for the series after closing out Cleveland on Sunday. Miami, on the other hand, had been resting and preparing for a week, and the Heat looked sharp. After the game, Wade said that he was "in the groove, but not in rhythm" because of the foul trouble. He's not a player who is in foul trouble often, so look out in Game 2. He may be "in the groove" and "in rhythm" – which is a scary thought.