Will the Pacers loss linger for the Pistons
Players dispute Indiana's edge
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
AUBURN HILLS — First things first: The Pistons do not think the Indiana Pacers have a mental edge on them.
“Come on, man, this is us,” said Chauncey Billups, dismissing the notion that three straight losses to the Pacers make them a nemesis. “We’re mentally tough. We don’t believe in that. They are the No. 1 team right now and they are playing great. There is nothing bad you can say about them.
“But we would love to see them later in the season and in the playoffs.”
Ben Wallace also dismissed it.
“Like I said, they won the game (81-69 Tuesday night) so they can say whatever they want,” he said. “They may say they’re the best in the East or whatever. I don’t buy into that.”
So if there is not a mental edge, what about a physical edge?
“I don’t look at it like that,” Coach Larry Brown said. “I look at it like we had a chance to win (all three games) with our better players struggling from an offensive standpoint.”
Anyone who has watched the Pistons the past two seasons knows they struggle to win when guards Billups and Richard Hamilton struggle to score.
The Pistons are 32-10 the last two seasons when Billups scores 20 or more points, and 39-15 when Hamilton does. This season, they are 20-4 when Billups and Hamilton team to score at least 35.
In the three losses to the Pacers, Billups and Hamilton have averaged 23 points, 13 below their combined season average, on 26 percent shooting.
“That’s just the way we are,” Brown said. “It’s hard trying to win games when your top perimeter guys can’t score. Every team would say that. There isn’t a team in the world that I’ve seen that can win if their perimeter guys aren’t making shots.”
Oddly, though, the Pacers play the Pistons’ guards mostly straight up. They don’t do a lot of trapping or double-teaming. It might seem the Pistons would have more success against Jamaal Tinsley, Anthony Johnson and Reggie Miller.
“I don’t know what it is,” Billups said. “I don’t think it is their defense, their man-to-man. They know what we’re running and we know what they’re running, but shots just aren’t going.”
When the Pistons’ playmakers aren’t scoring, and the offense is making 21 turnovers that lead to 26 points, it magnifies the areas in which the Pistons are overmatched, namely, the two forward spots.
In the three games, Pacers starting forwards Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest have outscored Pistons starting forwards Mehmet Okur and Tayshaun Price, 122-56, and outrebounded them, 48-28.
“How are you going to change that?” Brown asked.
Good question. Corliss Williamson and Darvin Ham did a good job against Artest later in the game Tuesday. They, more so than Prince, were able to match him physically.
But O’Neal (28 points) was unstoppable. The only player who had any success against him was Wallace, who played against him only in the fourth quarter. Brown doesn’t want to risk getting Wallace in foul trouble by having him guard O’Neal early in the game.
“Jermaine O’Neal is a tough matchup for lots of teams, not just us,” Brown said.
‘Mad at myself’
Brown took a little of the blame for the loss Tuesday.
“I am mad at myself for not starting the bench in the second half,” he said.
With reserves Williamson and Elden Campbell leading the way, the Pistons cut a 15-point deficit to four by halftime. Brown reinserted starters Okur and Prince in the third quarter, and the Pistons quickly fell behind by 12.
“We were riding that 13-game winning streak,” he said, “and I just didn’t want to change it up at that time.”