CHICAGO – Done with you. Done with your team. Done with your building. Done with your noise. Done with your guards, Hinrich and Gordon. Done with your big men, Deng and P.J. Especially P.J. Done with him. Done with your Wallace, who used to be our Wallace. Done with collapsing and head shaking and wondering. Done with the threats of an upset for the ages.
Done with you. That’s what the Pistons were thinking as they walked off the United Center court Thursday night, bidding the Bulls good-bye, finally, after a game they shouldn’t have been in, in a series that went too long, a series that threatened to push Detroit to the brink of embarrassing notoriety.
“We definitely didn’t want to face that kind of history,” said Tayshaun Price, after the Game 6 clinching victory that squashed the two-game comeback from the upstart Bulls.
But make no mistake. When the Pistons left the court at halftime, trailing by five, they can talk about swagger all they want: The idea entered their heads. They could be stuck with a seventh game against a team they had down, 3-0. After all, when P.J. Brown, who was born during the first Nixon administration and hadn’t scored more than 15 points in a game all season – when that P.J. Brown had 20 points by the half and was embarrassing a five-years younger Rasheed Wallace -well, anything is possible.
But probable usually beats possible. And it was probable that the Pistons would discover what got them here sometime before Memorial Day.
Besides, you don’t embarrass Rasheed Wallace for very long.
“What did you say to Ben Wallace after the game?” an ESPN reporter asked Wallace after the 95-85 victory that sent the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals.
“After the game nothing too much,” Wallace said. “ But I told him before we started what we got to do.”
Pistons 4, Bulls 2.
Done with you. It’s the ‘Sheed Show
“It’s a helluva accomplishment,” said a relieved Flip Saunders of the fifth straight conference finals appearance for this team.
It is. And it didn’t come easy. It only became secure once the Pistons were the Pistons again, starting in the third quarter Thursday. They rediscovered defense. Prince caught fire. And Rasheed Wallace was everywhere. Shooting. Rebounding. Defending.
He simply imposed himself on the game. That’s the best way to put it. He hit the opening shot of the half, a three-pointer. Then he hit a turnaround jumper and got fouled. Then he hit a 16-footer. Then he blocked Brown, who seemed to remember what the word “journeyman” means.
True, Rasheed had more face-contortions than a mime at Fisherman’s Wharf. A foul call. A kick call. An out-of-bounds calls. And the inevitable technical. No referee whistle was beyond his disbelief. But that is how Wallace behaves when he is totally in a game, and, in that second half, he was totally in the game.
“How can you not be emotional out there?” Wallace told EPSN. “You all seen what was happening.”
Well, what we saw and what he saw may be two different things. But Wallace finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. That was enough. Saunders spoke after the game about Wallace during the morning shootaround, saying he had a “different aura” about him, a certain seriousness that he hadn’t seen in a long time.
“We came to get something done,” Saunders said.
Done with you. A case for the defense
The broad strokes of this game are easy. The Pistons won because Prince went wild in the second half. They won it because Chauncey Billups took control again. They won because Rip Hamilton played like a waterbug, scoring 23 points, hitting difficult, hanging shots. They won because they closed down the Chicago backcourt, forcing Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich into 10-for-31 shooting.
Chicago came back to earth with its shooting, hitting just 37%, versus the 57% in the stunning Game 5 victory at the Palace. A lot of that was Detroit defense, yes.
But this should be said. Unless the Pistons make some changes, they likely will not beat this team next year. Chicago is already too fast, too young, will certainly be hungrier, more experienced, and less prone to mistakes. The Bulls also have a lottery pick in this year’s draft. Had the Bulls started this series with more confidence, it might have ended sooner. The Pistons should consider themselves warned.
But that’s for next year. They are in the conference finals now. By the time you read this, the Pistons will have forgotten the Bulls as quickly as you’ve forgotten about wearing your winter coat now that the spring sun has emerged.
You shed what you don’t need. You keep what you do. You move ahead and you wave good-bye. So long, Chicago.
Done with you.
Let’s see who’s next.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.