Today, I am the oddsmaker. Today, I establish the line. Today, I smoke a cigar and wear dark glasses and sit in the back room preparing to hang my magic number on the big board in Las Vegas. My assignment: Pistons-Nets, Game 7, tonight.
Did I mention this was my first day on the job?
All right. As we “oddsmakers” will tell you, home court is very important. Tonight’s game is in Detroit, and judging by Games 1 and 2, which were Detroit blowouts, I am saying Pistons by nine.
Psst. New Jersey won Game 5 in Detroit.
Oh. Right. I knew that. And we have to take momentum into account, so . . . Jersey by three.
Psst. Detroit won the last game.
Ahem. Right. I knew that. So clearly momentum is on Detroit’s side. Let’s go with Pistons by two. But before we finalize that number, we must break things down by category. That’s how we “pros” do it on the big board. This ain’t church bingo, you know.
So let’s begin with offense. As you peruse the stat sheets, you notice the Pistons started this series shooting, like, 90 percent, and dropped down to like, three percent, so we have to pick New Jersey by 15.
Psst. Jersey only scored 75 points last game.
Right. So clearly things evolve. And so can we. Let’s go with Detroit by six.
Psst. You’ve changed your mind a lot.
Shhh. I’m working. You want me sic “Cheech” on you?
What’s their Net worth?
Now, other factors. Let’s talk key players. Jason Kidd is the best point guard in the league. He can pass, dribble and even score. With him, I must make it Jersey by six.
Psst. He’s exhausted and hurt.
He is? I mean, of course he is. Exhausted and hurt. Which changes the odds. Detroit by one.
Psst. There have been four days since the last game. Everyone is well-rested.
Four days? That’s ridiculous.
Tell us about it.
Well, then, I think Jason Kidd will be full strength. And when you combine him with Kenyon Martin, a bulldog of a power forward, we are compelled to raise those odds back up again. Jersey by six.
Psst. You ever heard of Ben Wallace?
The guy from “60 Minutes?”
Ben Wallace. Had 20 rebounds last game?
Oh. Right. That Wallace. He’s huge. A game-changer. With him at full power, you have to make the Pistons favorites by four.
Psst. What about the other players?
And now let’s do the other players. Here we go:
Chauncey Billups can make big shots, so that’s Pistons by six. But he has missed a lot of lay-ups, too, so Nets by one. Tayshaun Prince has the power to change a game, Pistons by three. But he’s been playing poorly lately. Nets by two. Richard Jefferson is a double threat, night in and night out, so Jersey by six. But Rasheed Wallace is a triple threat — shooting, defending and rebounding — so Pistons by two. Only Wallace is limping on one foot, so Nets by four.
Then again, the Pistons’ bench has Corliss Williamson and Mehmet Okur, and Okur was a starter until recently, so Pistons by five. Then again, Okur has disappeared most of these playoffs, so Nets by one. Then again, Okur had a good game Sunday, so Pistons by one. Then again, the Nets have that Scallapini guy. New Jersey by three.
Psst. His name is Scalabrine.
I know that. What do you think? A bookie has no sense of humor?
On one hand, but on the other
Now, onto the coaching. Larry Brown had the better record in the regular season, so give him the edge, Pistons by eight.
Psst. Lawrence Frank only took over mid-season. His percentage is actually better than Brown’s.
Which only supports what I’m about to say: Nets by eight.
You haven’t mentioned rebounding.
And now for the rebounding. Detroit with all those big guys — Wallace, Wallace, Okur, Prince — has a huge advantage. Pistons by 10.
Psst. The Pistons have been outrebounded most of these games.
Ahem. Nets by seven.
But not last game.
Pistons by three.
Plus, Rip Hamilton has been strong.
Pistons by 11.
But Jefferson is the leading scorer.
Nets by one.
The Pistons made the conference finals last year.
Detroit by four.
They lost to the Nets.
Jersey by five.
Pistons are hungrier.
Detroit by eight.
Jersey has more experience.
Nets by four. No, Pistons by one. No, wait. What about Lindsey Hunter? What about Jason Collins? What about the refs? What about the layoff? What about-what about-what about-ARRRRGH! I CANT TAKE IT ANYMORE! I QUIT!
Good thing. You weren’t very good at this anyhow.
Look who’s talking.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or email@example.com”