Saturday, June 03, 2006
In a disappointing, not overly-competitive game, the Heat have advanced to the NBA Finals are their 95-78 victory over 2-time defending Eastern Conference Champion Detroit in Game 6.
Let's get one thing straight before we go any further - This series wasn't about Detroit "not showing up." It wasn't about Detroit thinking they could turn it on when they wanted. It was about Miami simply playing a lot better basketball than the Pistons did over 6 games.
Not that Miami, save for Shaq Fu and Jason Williams, played all that well in Game 6. Dwyane Wade was sick with the flu, and was only able to contribute 14 points on 6/15 shooting. Antoine Walker scored 11 points and grabbed 4 rebounds, and the bench combined to score only 13 points (though that was better than the Pistons' bench scoring 9). None of it mattered. Behind Shaq's 28, "White Chocolate's" 21, and the poor shooting from Detroit, Miami built a 5 point lead after the first quarter and it slowly kept building.
The Pistons were able to get plenty of open looks, but they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Collectively, they shot 33.3% from the field, but only 6/21 from downtown. The indiviual numbers weren't so impressive either:
Ben Wallace - 7 points, 7 rebounds, and getting abused down low by the Big Aristotle. But on the bright side, he was 3/4 from the charity stripe.
Rasheed Wallace - I suppose this was the fitting ending for this series for Rasheed. 4/12 shooting, 10 points.
Tayshaun Prince - Had been so impressive all series, but couldn't get it going today. 3/9 shooting, 10 points, 7 rebounds.
Richard Hamilton - Managed to score 33 points, but it took him 28 shots to do it.
Chauncey Billups - Over the past couple years earned a rep as one of the clutchest players in the NBA. In Game 6, however, he was 3/14 from the field (0/3 from downtown) for 9 points. He did have 8 assists, but that wasn't nearly enough to make up for the dreadful shooting.
So now the intriguing story for the Pistons - was this Ben Wallace's final game in Detroit? Chris Sheridan says Wallace is "coy" about his future. On Kevin Antcliff's site, you can already vote on what Detroit should do. Either way, Joe Dumars has put himself in an extremely precarious position. He already made one of the big draft blunders ever taking Darko (although I like Darko's potential), and then he shuffled him off for cap room to be able to resign Wallace. But that was before Wallace's postseason struggles. Personally, in hindsight, I think the Pistons would be a lot better off long-term if they had kept Darko and gotten rid of Big Ben after this year, but that's neither here nor there. Wallace is still a premier defensive player, but his offense is awful, and his game is predicated on energy, which is bound to slow down a little bit as he gets older. That and the fact that he's going to be possibly wanting $12 million a year to stay, well, that doesn't bode well for Motown. The problem now for Dumars is that there's no one on the FA market that could come close to replacing him.
As for the Heat, they now await the winner of Dallas/Phoenix, both teams that present big problems for Miami (more on that at a later date). But for now, they can soak up the sunshine for a couple days, as they prepare for their first ever NBA Finals Appearance.