Game #43 Preview: When We Were Kings
Indiana Pacers @ Detroit Pistons
Friday, January 22
8:00 pm EST
The Palace of Auburn Hills
Auburn Hills, Michigan
It’s pretty depressing when you think about how good both of these teams were for different stretches of the past decade. The Pistons actually made good on that talent and not only gave Motown a championship but went to six straight Eastern Conference Finalses (or is it Finalsi?). While that may make them the Atlanta Braves of the NBA — at least they’re not the Buffalo Bills of the NBA. Furthermore, at least they’re not the Indiana Pacers, whose 2005 title aspirations were oh-so-infamously ruined one fateful November night in Detroit that sent the franchise into a tailspin from which it is still trying to recover.
All that is in the past, however. What we have now is two really bad, injured-plagued teams that can’t shoot squaring off in that very same building. And by all expectations, the game this may as well be called The Phallus in the Palace. (Get it? Both these teams are playing like d*** this season.)
I chatted with Dan Feldman of Piston Powered earlier today to find out how we got to this lowly place and what Pacer fans should anticipate tonight out of the squad he covers on the daily. Check the Q&A below. And also be sure to head over to Piston Powered to check out a theoretical trade me and Dan discussed that revolves around sending TJ Ford and Troy Murhpy to Detroit in exchange for Rip and Jason Maxiell.
Jared: Over the past decade, I’ve always been excited to see the Pistons on the schedule — but also a little scared. In the vein of that whole “styles make fights” boxing adage, Indy and Detroit clashed nicely, but I was also keenly aware that there was a good chance my boys would get KO’d. Now, however, I am not at all excited to watch this game and, if anything, my mentality is “sweet … a team the Pacers might actually be able to beat.” I have a two-part question related to this: (1) how the hell did this happen on your end, and (2) how sad is this?
Dan Feldman: Players got old. Every single one of those starters on those great Pistons teams has looked too worn down at some point. The trade to the Nuggets reinvigorated Chauncey Billups, and returning to Detroit has brought out the best in Ben Wallace. But neither would’ve happened had they remained with the Pistons continuously. Richard Hamilton has been solid, but he’s the type of guy that plays best when he’s around other good players. Tayshaun Prince has been in a funk, and Rasheed Wallace has a way of wearing out his welcomes. And yes, it’s very sad. That 2004 Eastern Conference Finals is my favorite playoff series ever. I miss these teams playing that type of basketball. I can only hope that when both emerge from their rebuilding processes, they each look something like that again.
Jared: Even in the annual ECF-trip days of yesteryear, you’ve grown accustomed to watching a team that isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. But this Pistons squad simply can’t score (nor do they stop anyone). Why is the offense so bad, and how is it that so many guys are shooting so poorly (Stuckey: 40.8%, Rip: 38.7%, Tayshaun: 42.5%, Bynum: 43.2%, Gordon: 43.5%, Maxiell: 44.7%)?
Feldman: Well, a lot of the offensive problems stem from the defensive ones. It’s a lot harder to score after allowing a made basket. Injuries have been a big problem, too. Prince, Hamilton, Gordon and Bynum haven’t really gotten in a groove yet (listed in the order the excuse is most valid). Indirectly, when one is out, defenses can key in on Stuckey or whomever else is playing.
Jared: How much do you attribute the team’s poor play to injuries? Are we looking at a decent roster that has been hit with bad luck since Rip, Tay and Will Bynum have all missed significant time?
Feldman: I have no idea how good this team is. I think it would be a playoff team, but it’s hard to say because there’s never a full roster — or anything near it. Injuries have been devastating.
Jared: Rodney Stuckey is explosive but inconsistent. He seems like the guy Pacers fans should be fearing the most this evening. True or False?
Feldman: Stuckey has been playing well this year. I’d probably be most fearful of Charlie Villanueva — as a Pacer fan or a Pistons fan. He’s capable of having a huge game and being virtually unguardable. And when his shot his falling, he’s a decent defender. On the other hand, he can ruin a ton of possessions with missed shots and turnovers. And that’s when his defense is at its worst.
Jared: Who else on this team might surprise some people who haven’t been watching Detroit much this year (read: me)? I hear this Swedish rookie Jonas Jerebko looks good. Austin Daye, too.
Feldman: Jerebko will impress you if you watch closely. He’s a great offensive rebounder and a nice defender — especially in transition defense. He can make the jumper if you leave him alone, too. Daye has been pretty inconsistent. He’s capable of having a fine game, but I wouldn’t worry about him much at this point.
Pacers vs. Pistons: Tale of the Tape