The road show moves on today, having concluded an immensely entertaining mini-series with Cleveland.
With about nine minutes left Monday night, I interviewed Flip Saunders parents, Kay and Walter at the back of section 101 at Quicken Loans Arena. The score was 68-67 Pistons, and when I made it back to my seat at the scorer's table, Rasheed hit a basket to make it 70-67. When the Pistons got another stop, Chauncey was fouled by Eric Snow as he shot from the 3-point line. It was then that I said to myself the same thing you were thinking as you watched back home: "It's over."
I'm not big on things like, "You could see in he Cavs eyes they knew they couldn't stand up to the Pistons from there on in." We don't ever know what anybody else is really thinking. But when the the Pistons get into crunch time and the same thing happens game in and game out, you figure that the opponent also suspects that the Pistons are about to cook their goose.
Lindsey Hunter made a great hustle play to save a loose ball from Lebron James; Ben slapped one away from Lebron; Rip got open on a few curls and hit three straight hoops, and it was over. With a display of stifling defense, the Pistons held the Cavs to nine points the entire fourth quarter.
Back when the Bad Boys were the scourge of the league, John Salley, a master of sports symbolism, told me that their mind set on the road was, "We're like the Vikings of old. We come to your town and you better be ready. We're there to beat you up, take your fans, take your arena and then cut your heart out before we go."
At this point, it's hard to imagine any sort of praise that hasn't been accorded the Pistons. It's all been said before. But it doesn't mean that their efficiency, consistency and knowledge of how to win is any less impressive every time you see it. Cleveland has a pretty nice team, but sweep of back-to-back games was yet another reminder for the Cavs that they have many miles to travel before they can start getting delusions of grandeur about having any elevated status in the East.
From Rasheed's whack on Ilgauskas moments after the tip on Sunday, to the crushing 20-5 stretch in the fourth quarter Monday, the Pistons got their message across. And Wallace's bad guy role these two games was classic "Sheed." He's the Laimbeer/Mahorn of this group, an enforcing presence for his choir boy teammates. I think it was brilliant that he admitted hitting Ilgauskas on purpose after Ilgauskas had elbowed him. Why be wishy washy? His technical for smiling at Ilgauskas late in Monday's game was also perfect. And I'm sure the old Vikings smiled and sneered at their victims when they sailed off after stealing all their stuff.
After Cleveland beat the Pistons on New Year's Eve and celebrated, the Pistons had another lesson to teach here. It's the old cliche, "Act like you've been there." The Pistons modestly congratulated each other last night and quietly walked off the court after Monday's fourth quarter punishment.
Now we're off to Denver, Seattle and LA where more adventures and more arenas quake in anticipation of basketball's deadliest road show.