I enjoyed this article and the booing last night was great.
Disappointed fans jump off Pistons bandwagon
By Jerry Green / The Detroit News
AUBURN HILLS - They came with their thunder stix and their ear-splitting noise and their burning belief in the Pistons' destiny. They claimed it was the Bad Boys era redux and that the Pistons were aimed straight at another June confrontation with the Lakers.
They imagined the old pictures of Isiah nuzzling Magic and figured this time it would be Big Ben jabbing elbows into Shaq.
They came to their magnificent Palace in anticipation of the most important game their Detroit pro basketball franchise played since Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas walked out against Michael Jordan in 1991.
But this time the faithful walked out, their thunder stix drooping, before it was over. They booed, then abandoned their team.
Oooops, something broke down on the way to the Pistons' dance into the NBA Finals. The engine conked out on the night the Pistons could have taken command of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Pacers.
It wasn't even close. It was destruction.
And instead of being ahead 3-1, with just another victory needed to clinch the series and reach the Finals, the Pistons are in deep jeopardy. The series is equal at 2-2, but the Pacers have recaptured this mystical edge, the home court advantage. Two more games could be played back in Indiana, the first on Sunday.
But more vital than this so-called home court edge is the Pacers' current coaching advantage. Rick Carlisle coached the gray-flannel suit off Larry Brown.
And when Friday night's key match ended with the Pacers' 83-68 victors, Brown admitted he had been had.
"They came in better prepared," Brown said. "They were better coached.
"We can't play any worse.
"If I look at this game, I want to stick my head in the sand."
The Pistons seemed headed to the Finals on the strength of energy and passion. Somehow it vanished in two days. Tayshaun Prince was blanked for the game - a zero in 32 minutes on the floor. Ben Wallace scored one point in 40 minutes.
No surprise that Larry wanted to stick his head in the sand.
Carlisle, meanwhile, made a surprise switch of centers work. He started Austin Croshere instead of Jeff Foster and the changed lineup became an immense factor.
It was a gamble, Carlisle said, and he kept it a secret until informing his team just before the game. A touch of gamesmanship.
There is the continued subplot in these conference finals.
A year ago, Carlisle was coaching the Pistons. He came up against Brown in the second round of the playoffs. Brown was then coaching the Philadelphia 76ers. Carlisle's Pistons won the series and then lost to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference finals.
Before this time at the end of May, the Pistons fired Carlisle for reasons never satisfactorily explained.
Perhaps it was because Larry Brown had opted to depart Philadelphia and was pleasingly available. Perhaps not; perhaps Carlisle's rigid, aloof demeanor offended high levels of Pistons' management.
Whatever, Brown, the vagabond coach with the high marks of success and experience, was hired to replace Carlisle in Detroit.
Carlisle got the shaft from the Pistons.
He remains noncommittal, but as first-year coach of the Pacers he must burn inwardly to knock off the Pistons.
When this series started, he tried to make the rivalry a non-issue, telling the media that he had the memory span of an egg timer. Nobody thought to ask: "Soft-boiled or hard-boiled?"
I say Carlisle is quite hard-boiled - strong, and tough.
And after he defused the Pistons and 22,076 walkout fans, Carlisle indulged in another slip of gamesmanship with the Pacers reclaiming the home court edge.
"The thing our guys got to remember," he said of the Pacers, "is that the pressure is not on them.
"The pressure is on Detroit because their whole season is made or broken on whether they make it to the Finals. They've been here last year.
"I told the guys before the game that there aren't many people on our bandwagon right now."
And Friday night, when the wheels came off, there was a mass exodus from the Pistons' bandwagon.