The Pistons are a good basketball team but they are nowhere near as good as they think they are. That inexplicable overconfidence is directly responsible for the quote in the post title. If the Pistons were in touch with reality, they would not need to “turn it on” in the face of so many compromising situations. They would simply play hard and win in the same way other good teams do it. Instead, we have the above quote and a 16-oz bottle of Pepto-Bismol to deal with.
The thing that keeps the above quote alive is the fact that the Pistons have often won in compromising positions. That seems to only bolster the validity of the quote in their minds. Playing uninspired basketball may be “what the Pistons do” but it is also the reason why the Pistons never won another NBA Championship after 2004. Expending so much energy on beating teams you should beat makes it almost impossible to contend with the teams that are your equal.
All frustrations aside, declaring the Pistons dead in this series would be ignoring “what the Pistons do.” Here is a reminder of the holes that the Pistons have weaseled their way out of in the last few years:
2003 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Orlando
Pistons fall behind 3-1 to Orlando before winning the last three games of the series.
2003 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs. Philadelphia
Pistons jump out to a 2-0 series lead only to lose the next two to Philadelphia. The Pistons then win the next two games to close out the series.
2004 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs. New Jersey
Pistons jump out to a 2-0 series lead only to lose the next three to New Jersey. The Pistons win at New Jersey in game six to force a game seven and a Pistons win.
2004 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Indiana
The Pistons jump out to a 2-1 series lead before losing game four to even the series at 2-2. The Pistons then win game five at Indiana and close out the series in six.
2005 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs. Indiana
The Pistons fall behind 2-1 with home-court advantage. They then win games four and six at Indiana to close out the series.
2005 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Miami
The Pistons fall behind 3-2 to Miami before winning game six at home and game seven at Miami.
2006 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs. Cleveland
The Pistons jump out to an early 2-0 series lead before dropping the next three games. Facing elimination, the Pistons win game six at Cleveland and close out the series at home in game seven.
Part of me is quietly hoping that Cleveland dispatches of the Pistons in game six so the overhaul can begin. The last three years have been a collection of sad tales involving the same theme: complacency. The sooner the front office moves on from 2004, the sooner the Pistons can get back to resembling that hard-working bunch that captivated Pistons fans five years ago. If I was a betting man, I would not bet against the history that I outlined above. The Pistons are in the same position they’ve been in time and time again. That is why I expect them to win game six at Cleveland. Fortunately, losing game six at Cleveland would not be such a bad thing in the long run. Either way, this act needs to end with the 2007 playoffs. I can’t handle another dead-end run.