Heat 98, Pistons 83

For all the (talented) spare parts Pat Riley added last summer, his two most important weapons are fully capable of dominating, as shown by Shaq’s inside game last night, along with Dwyane Wade’s ridiculous 4th quarter.

Describing the Pistons’ dilemma as “a tug of war for the character of the team”, the Detroit Free Press’ Drew Sharp writes,

If this group is one of the best starting fives that ever laced up a pair of Nikes, then they can’t have the fluctuations of their 98-83 loss to the blazing Miami Heat.

The Heat paid more attention to Tayshaun Prince following his impressive first two games, rendering him basically useless. He scored the Pistons’ first points with a three-pointer in the game’s opening moments and didn’t score again.

The Pistons found themselves on the losing end of another Game 3 on the road. It’s just another phase of the same pattern that repeats itself with disturbing regularity.

They aren’t winning. They’re surviving, mustering just enough effort to keep alive this image that the tougher the obstacle, the more committed the performance. But it’s been two weeks — the final two games of the first-round series against Milwaukee — since the Pistons put together two straight performances worthy of their self-adulation.

Five should always beat two.

But it only works if all five show up on the same night.

For the Detroit News’ Terry Foster, the Pistons’ reluctance to double team Shaquille O’Neal is what “reduced them to rubble.”

This archaic game of Wallace guarding the 7-foot-1, 365-pound tanker known as Shaquille O™Neal is not working. When O™Neal is on his game he is unstoppable.

Wallace cannot guard O’Neal by himself. It™s become painfully obvious in two of the three opening games of the Eastern Conference finals.

Part of it is a source of pride. The Pistons don™t like to double-team even the greatest of superstars. But it is time to swallow their pride because there is a Shaq trait they should be able to exploit to their advantage.

O™Neal picks up his dribble at the first sign of a double team. Or he spins away from the double team and loses his leverage towards the basket. He becomes twisted and confused and his shooting percentage goes down. It is not a foolproof solution to stop Shaq but it is also not the foolish strategy the Pistons have tried.

œIt depends on where he™s at, Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince said. œIf he catches the ball inside the paint area, then there™s pretty much nothing you can do.

But he often catches the ball outside the paint.

When Shaq is spinning and shooting six-foot jump hooks, your chances of survival are better.

When he is rattling the rim as if it is a toy, you are dead and buried.