Champs must leave nothing to chance as they try to avoid impending disaster
By Bob Wojnowski / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS--The effort is sporadic. The turnovers are hideous. The whining is lame. Even the latest Rasheed Wallace guarantee sounded forced, uttered out of habit, as if he were searching (reaching?) for something that used to work.
The Pistons suddenly, inexplicably, are out of character and immersed in trouble against Indiana. Yes. Do not kid yourselves. The champs have a problem as they enter Game 4 today trailing the Pacers 2-1. It's a fixable problem, but after they've slopped around for nearly seven straight quarters, it's a problem they can't ignore.
They're not making shots against Indiana's hustling defense. They're rushing, looking disoriented. They're not playing with force, on offense or defense. That's puzzling, as well as inexcusable.
After practice Saturday, the Pistons still sounded upbeat and largely unconcerned. Fine. That's a champion's prerogative. If they win today, as they should, a looming crisis would fade.
But they should be whiffing desperation and it should start with Rasheed Wallace, half of the famous Wallace Wall. Remember the Wall, the intimidating barrier that sends opponents scampering out of the lane? The Pacers haven't been intimidated, and the Wall is showing cracks.
When Larry Brown finally stopped griping about the officiating, thank goodness, he said the Pistons had to use their big men more, and the big men had to demand the ball more. Ben Wallace had 21 points in Game 1 and has a total of 10 since.
But more of this is on Rasheed Wallace, who needs to play angrier and smarter, and tougher inside. I suspect he knows it, too. He knew it last year when he guaranteed a Game 2 victory over Indiana, then came out impassioned. The Pistons won 72-67, and although Rasheed shot 4-for-19, he swatted five shots, part of a franchise-record 19 blocks.
In this series he has floated too often to three-point range, where he's 2-for-11. He heaved up three airballs in the 79-74 loss Friday night, before exiting the dressing room with his latest declaration: "We're definitely going back to Detroit with this thing 2-2."
He declined to expand on his statement Saturday, but the other pillar did.
"Whether it's playing with a chip on our shoulders or whatever, we need less talk and more play," Ben Wallace said. "We've got to make a conscious effort to get the ball inside. We're making ourselves too small in the paint. We've got to get big in the paint."
Indiana, hardly a dominant inside team, has outscored the Pistons 66-40 in the lane the last two games. The startling thing is, the Pistons are not getting beat by the stars. They're getting beat by Jeff Foster, who gobbles rebounds, and Jamaal Tinsley, who keeps driving straight to the basket, barely breathed upon.
"We're not controlling the tempo," Ben Wallace said.
The Pistons aren't scaring the Pacers and aren't fooling anybody right now. There's no doubt they relaxed after their blistering start in this series. But since Rasheed Wallace demanded the most attention with his words, we're demanding the biggest response from him. Less talk, more play?
Sure. Also, less clanging, more banging.