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May 23, 2005

Eastern Conference finals: Detroit vs. Miami

by Pratik Bhandari, Page Editor
At last, Detroit has finished off the pesky Indiana Pacers and the Heat can begin playing playoff basketball for the first time since May 14.

Going into the series, the biggest question has to be how healthy Shaq is. If he's well rested, the Heat have a good chance to win. If he's not, they don't.

Ever since the Heat got Shaq way back in July, the Pistons have been gearing up for this battle. They knew as soon as the Heat got Shaq that Miami was a legitimate contender in the East. On that note, the Pistons got Elden Campbell from the Nets so that they would have four bodies to throw at Shaq instead of three.

As with just about any series he plays in, Shaq is the key to the matchup. Unfortunately for the Heat, however, the Pistons are a team built to deluge the Diesel with a platoon of big men. Also, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton are much better defensively than anyone that Dwayne Wade has faced in the playoffs. With those two covering him, Wade won't be able to carry the Heat past the Pistons as he did against the Nets and the Wizards.

However, Damon and Eddie Jones have been on fire this year during the playoffs, and if they keep playing at this level, the Pistons will be hard pressed to shut both of them down. Tayshaun Prince's defense will be vital to the Pistons as he needs to help out whoever's covering Wade and to keep tabs on Eddie or Damon Jones.

The Pistons defensive strategy will be simple: funnel everything to the middle. With the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in Ben Wallace patrolling the lane, it's not a hard tactic to employ. Also, with an ailing Shaq, there's no way that the Pistons won't own the boards. Alonzo Mourning has really come on of late for the Heat, especially on the defensive end, but he's not nearly the same offensive threat that O'Neal is.

On the bright side, the Heat do have home court advantage, which will almost certainly come into play as I see this series easily going to seven games. The Pistons, however, will emerge as Eastern Conference champs.

G: Edge Even
Dwayne Wade is a beast. He may even be one of the top 10 players in the game. But if Wade is in the top 10, Richard Hamilton has got to be in the top 25. And Chauncey Billups uncanny ability to knock down big shots and score in bunches counteracts whatever Damon and Eddie Jones contrive to do.

F: Edge Pistons
Tayshaun Prince and Antonio McDyess vs. Eddie Jones and Udonis Haslem. Jones is a bit undersized and Prince will take full advantage of that fact on both ends of the court. McDyess and Haslem pretty much cancel each other out, so the Pistons have an advantage here.

C: Edge Even
If Shaq was at 100%, the edge would definitely go to the Heat, but the fact is that he's not at full strength, and combined with Alonzo Mourning, the two Miami big men are equivalent to Ben and Rasheed Wallace.

Bench: Edge Heat
Larry Brown has been playing his starters for 40+ minutes each game, so that's a bit of an indication that Brown has next to no trust in his bench. That could definitely hurt the Pistons in the later stages of this series, not to mention the fact that the Pistons got two days of rest as compared to the Heat getting nine.

Coach: Edge Even
Larry Brown is one of the best coaches of all time, but you have to give Stan Van Gundy credit for negotiating through the playoffs with an ailing Shaq and for keeping his team motivated enough to sweep both of their opponents.

Prediction: Pistons in seven



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  • Ravi on June 7, 2005 at 7:51 PM
    haha, right on Pratik.
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