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Friday, December 08, 2006

Pistons Avenge Last Year's Blowout Loss in Dallas, Beat Mavericks, 92-82

The Detroit Pistons' motto on Thursday was not "Remember the Alamo" but rather "Remember the blowout." Last year, the Mavericks not only handed the Pistons their first loss--they embarrassed them, 119-82, in Detroit's only visit to Dallas. Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince combined to score just 22 points in that game. Each player almost matched that total by himself on Thursday in the Pistons' 92-82 win over the Mavericks. Prince led Detroit with 20 points and Wallace pumped in 19, including 5-8 shooting from three point range. Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and nine rebounds for Dallas, but most of his teammates had subpar outings as the Mavericks shot just .419 from the field and were outrebounded 44-36. Jason Terry scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting but had four turnovers and only three assists, while Josh Howard had a double double (12 points, 12 rebounds) but shot just 5-16 from the field.

TNT ran some interesting graphics during the first quarter. One showed that Dallas ranks third in the league in first quarter scoring at 28.6 ppg, while Detroit is 19th at 23.8 ppg. Another pointed out that Detroit ranked second in the NBA in apg last year (24.0) but is just 12th (20.7) this year. Finally, considering Dallas' quick starts it is not surprising that Howard (7.9) and Nowitzki (7.6) rank third and fourth in the NBA in first quarter ppg. Of course, Murphy's Law states that after such graphics are shown that the first quarter of the game must play out in a completely different fashion than the numbers would indicate. Most NBA games go back and forth but Detroit took control of this contest almost from the beginning; Dallas never led after the 7:20 mark in the first quarter and Detroit was ahead 29-20 by the end of the first period, a margin that almost completely reversed what the two teams had been averaging previously.

Detroit led 52-44 at halftime. Richard Hamilton had a team-high 12 points and Wallace had 10, while Nowitzki and Howard scored 12 each. During the second half, TNT's Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller discussed the impact on Detroit of losing Ben Wallace and signing Nazr Mohammed. Miller pointed out that Detroit's rebounding and offensive rebounding numbers have not dropped off dramatically, while Kerr countered that Wallace's value cannot be measured in numbers alone. Wallace was the heart and soul of the Pistons, argued Kerr, adding, "These guys aren't as tough or nasty as they were last year."

Nowitzki scored back to back baskets to start the third quarter, cutting the Detroit lead to six, but the Pistons gradually pulled away, pushing the lead to 70-54 at the 4:59 mark. The Pistons still led by 16 (76-60) at the end of the quarter.

Antonio McDyess' jumper to open the fourth quarter made the score 78-60 but then Dallas ran off nine straight points and trailed only 78-69 at the 8:31 mark after Devean George's three point play. Dallas got a steal on Detroit's next possession but just when it seemed that Dallas might get back in the game, Billups stole the ball and scored on a layup. That play seemed to settle the Pistons down again and Detroit eventually pushed the margin to 88-74. Then Dallas scored seven straight points in less than two minutes and had a chance to pull within five when Jason Terry went to the free throw line with 1:17 left. Terry only split the pair, though, and then Prince converted a three point play to put the game out of reach.

Detroit's win is impressive but it is also important to remember that the Pistons just had back to back losses to Charlotte and Portland, two of the league's weaker teams. Kerr noted that Dallas is just the third team with a winning record that Detroit has beaten this year. Time will tell if the Pistons are really better off without Wallace.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:53 AM

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