Brotherly shove Philly stuns Pistons again
By Bob Ford
PHILADELPHIA — All right, now you are allowed to wonder exactly what we have here.
Before Friday night, before the 76ers stunned and humiliated the Detroit Pistons in Game 3 of the opening round of the playoffs, the perception was pretty clear. It went like this: The Pistons, taking the Sixers somewhat lightly, lost the opening game in the final minute, then wo the second game convincingly.
This happens in the NBA. The better team needs some motivation, finds it in a loss that shouldn’t have happened, and asserts itself from that point on.
What took place Friday night in the Wachovia Center doesn’t happen all the time. It almost never happens. One of the few exceptions is when the better team isn’t really the better team after all.
Is that what we have here?
The Sixers didn’t win with mirrors Friday night. They didn’t win on a prayer or a fluke or a call that went this way or that. They won because they were better.
Whether the Sixers are the better team in the rest of the series is still to be determined. But, you are allowed to wonder.
This wasn’t the case of a young, energetic team hanging around with a superior opponent. This looked like a young, energetic team sapping the determination out of a veteran team that has seen too many big games to muster the energy necessary for another postseason run.
"They imposed their will for how they wanted to play," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "They got into us."
The Sixers got into them to the extent that Detroit, which led the league in fewest turnovers committed, gave the ball away 25 times. Despite allowing the Pistons to shoot a decent percentage from the field in the first half, the Sixers still held a four-point lead because those turnovers limited Detroit’s attempts.
"Active hands," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks called it.
The turnovers caused by those active hands let the Sixers score in the open court. They didn’t have to pound the ball and run half-court sets all night against a Pistons defense that had time to establish itself.
The Sixers are still the team that went 40-42. But if you let them play the way they want — aggressively on the defensive end and running the floor on the offensive end — the Sixers will beat you.
"When a team takes one of your strengths and makes it a weakness, you’re going to struggle," Saunders said. "You get anxious. You get good looks and miss them, and then you start to play a little out of character. We’ll play better."
That is certainly the expectation. But now you are free to wonder if the other team will let them.