If you managed to find Game 1 of the Pistons-Magic series (and seriously, can anyone explain why the NBA lets Round 2 begin before Round 1 is finished?), you saw all of the things the Piston do that the Raptors don’t and why the Magic were exposed in Game 1 for what they really are, pretenders.
Now, it is far too easy to talk about the many ways in which the Pistons are better than the Raptors, it’s not even fair to have that conversation on the whole. What is fair to look at is the attitude that was brought to Game 1 by the Pistons. To quote Rasheed Wallace (and really, is there a better guy to quote?), ”You can’t rattle us,” Wallace said. ”We ain’t no punks.” Wallace stepped in right off the start and made it clear how this series is going to be played. The Raptors can talk all they want about statement games and making statements, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t have anybody who can step up and make a statement like that…well, at least nobody who anybody is going to believe. When Rasheed tells you that they “ain’t no punks”, you had better believe him.
But as we saw many times with the Raptors this season, saying things and then going out and doing them are completely different matters. The Pistons beat down on the Magic and did not let Howard rule the interior like he did against the Raptors. They didn’t buy into any of that “Superman” bull, they pushed Howard around, shoved him away from the basket, even had the guy’s hand taped up by the end of the game. You could see the demoralized look on Howard’s face, realizing that this wasn’t going to be like playing the Raptors. To take a quote from the NBA’s new darling, “I don’t think I even looked up at the scoreboard for a while…[i]t’s disappointing.” Now does that sound like “Superman?” Does that sound like a guy who thinks that he is going to dominate the paint? No. Howard was not able to deal with the fact that the Pistons have some big boys who like to bang and aren’t afraid of a little contact. Wallace, McDyess, Maxiell, Ratliff…those guys all don’t mind getting rough if they have to. Now THAT’S the Legion of Doom. As Rip Hamilton said, “You can’t rough up the game with us…[t]hey tried. We like it. We enjoy it. That’s the way we want to play.”
If you want to make another comparison between the Raptors and the Pistons, take a look at what happened when Hedo went end to end for an uncontested dunk. How many times did we see that against the Raptors? Hedo looked like Clyde Drexler against the Raptors, taking the ball and gliding down the lane untouched, dropping 2 and then heading back for an easy time on defence. Let me tell you how many times that happened against the Pistons yesterday. Once. You know why? Because after it happened the first time, Flip Saunders called a timeout and read the team the riot act. I mean, the dude was livid. Flip understands that while the Most Improved Player of the Year is a good talent, there is no excuse for him going end to end for an easy dunk against you. That isn’t even his game. When this happened against the Raptors, Sam Mitchell sat back and let it continue, allowing his players to try to find their own solution, which was not forthcoming.
Let’s just continue the comparison. The Magic only shot 18.8% from 3-point range yesterday, as the Pistons were up in their faces all night. There weren’t many open looks, with the Pistons daring them to try to take them off the bounce. Just as you would think, the Magic couldn’t put the ball on the ground and weren’t able to create any offensive output. 73 points in the playoffs isn’t going to cut it against anybody.
Anyway, just a few thoughts I had when watching parts of this game. There are miles between the Pistons and Raptors, but the Raps would be wise to take a page or two out of their book.