Misfiring Pistons Routed at Home by the BullsThe Detroit Pistons swear up and down that they are a better team this year without Ben Wallace, who signed with the Chicago Bulls prior to this season. On Wednesday night, the Bulls beat the Pistons 106-88 even though Detroit had its full complement of players while Chicago was without the services of Wallace (sinus infection) and Andres Nocioni (foot injury). The Pistons had not lost this badly at home to a division rival since 2002. There was no sign of Detroit's vaunted offense (.405 field goal shooting), while Chicago shot .538 and won the rebounding battle 48-32. Kirk Hinrich led Chicago with 29 points and eight assists, while Luol Deng added 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Chauncey Billups topped Detroit with 17 points but he only had two assists. Rasheed Wallace had 16 points but just three rebounds and Rip Hamilton scored just three points before he was ejected with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter. Sheed's technical foul escapades are well documented (he has 19, which has earned him a pair of one game suspensions--and one more technical will cause him to be suspended for another game) but Hamilton is right behind him with 15 technical fouls and his next one will lead to an automatic one game suspension.
Chris Webber had a quiet game versus the Bulls (10 points, eight rebounds, 4-11 field goal shooting), but Detroit is 27-12 since acquiring him from Philadelphia. The Pistons' other centers have basically been invisible this year, so if Webber had not literally been dropped in Joe Dumars' lap the Pistons would likely be barely above .500. His arrival salvaged the regular season but Webber has hardly distinguished himself in postseason play during his career. When the Pistons won the 2004 championship they were coached by Larry Brown and had Ben Wallace at center; those roles are now filled by Flip Saunders and Webber, who have combined to win no rings during their NBA careers.
Granted, the sky is hardly falling in Detroit. The Pistons have the best record in the Eastern Conference and one of the better records in the entire league. They have several current and former All-Stars on their roster and figure to be a tough out in the playoffs--but since the Pistons won the championship they have exited the postseason a round earlier in each of the subsequent seasons. They could very possibly face this Bulls team in the second round this year. The Bulls won the season series 3-1 and a Chicago postseason triumph would continue Detroit's slow but apparently inexorable slide since 2004.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:25 AM