I know I’ve not waxed poetic about the NBA playoffs yet, but seriously, what a great NBA final four. Spurs and Suns. Pistons and Heat. I think these truly are the best four teams in the league and they’re both great match-ups. Of course, that doesn’t stop the nay-sayers from talking about how much they hate watching the Pistons and Spurs play. Whenever I read comments from non-Pistons people about the Pistons they talk about how garish and boring watching their “brand” of basketball is. Miami columnist and professional hairdo Dan Lebetard (http://www.freep.com/sports/pistons/lebatard23e_20050523.htm) said they’d play defense with machetes if league rules permitted. What team are these people watching? Okay, last year I might even be inclined to agree with some of those critics. And while I won’t deny the Pistons win with a defense-first attitude, it simply amazes me how people can overlook the offense this year’s team can generate when it needs to. The names may not have changed, but this is not last year’s team. Take a look at their starting five:
G – Chauncey Billups
G – Richard Hamilton
F – Tayshaun Prince (note to the nation: Tayshaun is not spelled “Tayshawn”)
F – Rasheed Wallace
C – Ben Wallace
There isn’t a guy there who isn’t capable of averaging over 10 points a game and the only thing that keeps that number from being 20 is Big Ben. You put any of the first four on a lottery team where they’d be the “feature” player and they’re fully capable of putting up 25 points a game night in and night out. For all the talk of their defense this team, which uses the entire shot clock more often than any team I’ve watched, averaged 93 points per game this year. That’s certainly no great shakes, but the league average was just 97 (and that’s with the Suns putting up 110 a game), so don’t tell me how these guys are ruining basketball because they only win with defense can’t shoot. (Actually, their 44% FG percentage is right on the league average. Only three teams averaged higher than 46% this season, though four were close at 45.9%.)
After last season many said the league actively tried to legislate Pistons/Spurs-style defense out of the league by calling things like hand-checks. I’ve got no problem with the league changing the rules to increase offensive flow. But the people who thought those changes would kill teams like the Pistons and Spurs are just dopes. These teams don’t win just because they can keep their opponents from getting to the hoop. They win because they’re actually pretty good with and without the ball. Change all the rules you want, but this is still the NBA and last I heard, at this level, you have to play both ends of the floor.