Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spurs or Suns?

Now that the Pistons have all but dispatched of the Bulls, I don’t think there’s any team in the conference with even a remote chance—barring injury of course—of beating the Pistons in a seven-game series. In fact, Detroit may end up having the easiest Eastern Conference Finals match-up in NBA history. I would normally be the last person to be this presumptuous but only a disaster combined with a total collapse by the Pistons could keep them from reaching the NBA Finals at this point. I am willing to gamble that those two things will not happen. On paper, Detroit should walk all over the Cleveland/New Jersey winner. Stranger things have happened so I won’t even think about pulling out the 0% chance card but Pistons fans have to like their chances of moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals and then to the NBA Finals.

Assuming Detroit finishes off the Cleveland/New Jersey winner, the topic of most interest to Pistons fans right now should be the outcome of the San Antonio/Phoenix series. There is a very, very good chance that the Pistons will be playing the winner of that series in the NBA Finals. It’s not an easy call but I do think one team presents Detroit with a more difficult challenge.

Both the Spurs and Suns will hold home-court advantage over Detroit which automatically makes things doubly difficult. The Pistons have proven that they can win on the road against San Antonio and Phoenix even though it is incredibly difficult to do so. If I had to guess, I would say that Pistons fans are split evenly on which team would give the Pistons a tougher series. I am inclined to go with the San Antonio Spurs. We already know that the Spurs can beat Detroit in a 7-game series. Plus, the Spurs are basically an upgraded version of the Pistons. San Antonio beats Detroit playing Detroit’s game. That is a difficult thing for the Pistons to overcome. Phoenix can’t match Detroit’s physical play but Detroit can do a pretty good imitation of the Suns style of play. Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are as conditioned as any players in the league. Billups has no problems playing physical or running. It’s always better to play a team with a contrasting style than it is to play a team that plays your style only better.

The Pistons, Spurs, and Suns have each managed to keep intact their style of play and continuity of their rosters over the last three years. So, I went through the results over that period to see how Detroit fared against both teams. Here is how things have unfolded:

Detroit vs. Phoenix

A 3/16/2007 W 105-83
H 12/31/2006 L 101-108
H 4/2/2006 W 109-102
A 11/10/2005 W 111-104
A 3/3/2005 L 97-100
H 1/17/2004 W 94-80

Detroit 4-2

Detroit vs. San Antonio

A 3/23/2007 L 89-90
H 2/14/2007 L 81-90
A 1/12/2006 W 83-68
H 12/25/2005 W 85-70
A 6/23/2005 L 74-81
A 6/21/2005 W 95-86
H 6/19/2005 L 96-95
H 6/16/2005 W 102-71
H 6/14/2005 W 96-79
A 6/12/2005 L 76-97
A 6/9/2005 L 69-84
H 3/20/2005 W 110-101
A 12/3/2004 L 77-80

San Antonio 7-6

Obviously, Detroit/San Antonio has a much larger sample size because of their seven-game series in the ’04 NBA Finals. Detroit went 4-2 against Phoenix and 6-7 against San Antonio. Detroit’s average margin of victory against Phoenix was seven points and, despite a losing record against the Spurs, Detroit had an average margin of victory of three against them. It’s also important to note that Detroit was without Billups and Chris Webber in a loss to Phoenix in December. One would have to think that the Pistons would have had a very good chance of winning that home game with the presence of Billups and Webber as well. The Pistons went 2-1 at Phoenix which was considerably better than their 2-5 record at San Antonio.

Considering Detroit had a better won/loss record, a better road record, and a larger margin of victory against Phoenix, one would have to think that the Pistons match-up better against the Suns. Throw in the fact that Detroit has already lost a seven-game series to the Spurs and I’ve become a temporary Suns fan.

Since both teams would have home-court advantage, Detroit would have a tough road to the NBA Championship no matter which team it plays. Detroit would be a heavy underdog to both San Antonio and Phoenix. The Western Conference is considerably better than the Eastern Conference so there will be big-time bias towards the West—and I think their should be. The Spurs and Suns put up gaudy records and have even more roster depth than the Pistons. None of this matters a whole lot since we’ll find out who wins the Spurs/Suns series in a matter of days. It’s just an interesting discussion to have while Detroit finishes mauling the Bulls. Plus, I think that the outcome of that series is huge for Detroit’s chances of winning another NBA Championship. A match-up with San Antonio probably presents a 1-in-3 chance of a Detroit victory. A match-up with Phoenix has to be viewed at 50/50. I know what odds I like better.

No comments:


Powered by Blogger