I'm writing this through tears.
That's because I just finished watching the Pistons eliminate the Pacers, and the thought of either of these teams beating the Lakers in the NBA Finals sent me into fits of laughter.
The Pistons will get the chance after beating the Pacers 4-2 Tuesday night. And that was the score of the game, not just the series.
No, I'm being silly. The actual final score Monday was 11-8. I've seen more scoring at a "Star Trek" convention, more good shots in the first five minutes of happy hour. In two of my college classes, I made more baskets than the two teams combined to make Monday, and one of those classes was held underwater.
Pistons coach Larry Brown summed up the excitement: "I guess if the series was going to end, this is the kind of game it should have ended with," he said.
The two teams went on a 3-point shooting spree at the end of the first half just to get to a combined 60 points, the lowest first-half total in playoff history. They had combined for the lowest half in playoff history in Game 2 when they scored 59 points in the second half. The first-half record that the teams broke Tuesday was set in the previous round by the Pistons and Nets, who combined for 62 points in the first half of Game 1 of their series.
So the Pistons are steaming into the Finals having contributed to three records for scoring futility in the last month, 50 years after the introduction of the 24-second clock should have set all records for scoring futility in concrete.
You're going to say it wasn't just bad offense in this series, that the two clubs' terrific defenses had something to do with the dearth of scoring, and you're going to be right. But still. At one point you could have laid all of the Pistons' missed shots end to end and they wouldn't have reached the outside of the rim.
Former Pistons coach Chuck Daly, sitting in the stands and apparently working Lenny Bruce's side of the street in a priest outfit, pointed out to ESPN's Jim Gray that whoever won this series was going to be relieved when they got to the Lakers because it was going to be easier to get shots. He also pretty much said it wouldn't matter.
"Truthfully I don't think they're going to beat them because they [the Lakers] have too many offensive people," Daly said before asking if Gray could help out with a little something for the lepers. Daly, who coached the Pistons to their two championships, pronounced himself "a big Detroit fan" and "a close friend" of Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, a former assistant of his. And even he couldn't bring himself to give one of those "wellllll, you never know!" type assessments.
I would have said going into this series that the Pacers had a better chance against the Lakers because they have more ways to score, more guys who can really light it up, though most of those guys often don't. But I also would have said, and did say, that the Pacers would beat the Pistons.
Jermaine O'Neal's knee injury in Game 4 probably doomed Indiana. Even though the Pacers' star continued to play, they never really got their offense going again because it wasn't able to flow through O'Neal. But I'm not sure how much difference a healthy O'Neal would have made. The Pistons just ground them -- not to mention the audience at home -- down.
Detroit will make the Lakers work, and I'll go a step further than Daly and say that the wildly inconsistent Lakers could lose if they go into their "well, let's just throw those purple and gold jerseys out there and see what happens" mode too many times. But even then the Pistons will have to make more shots than they made against the Pacers. Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace will both have to be much better against Los Angeles than they were against Indiana to take the pressure off Richard Hamilton. And even then it might not be enough.
Frankly the best thing that could happen to the Pistons would be a repeat of something that happened in the Pacers series: A guy named O'Neal gets hurt.
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The world needs copy editers! [PERMALINK]
A sharp-eyed reader pointed out that on the top of one of the backboards at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where it's supposed to say "Pistons.com," it actually says "Pitons.com."
The misspelling is on the top of the board on the right, from the camera's point of view, the one in front of the Pistons' bench. It was revealed during a replay of Corliss Williamson's third-quarter dunk that brought the Pistons to within two at 46-44. The other backboard has the correct spelling for the official site's URL.
That's a pretty spectacular typo. Every team puts its URL on top of the backboard, where it's visible in the occasional overhead replay, with what appear to be stick-on letters about 2 inches tall. It's one thing to read over a misspelled word in, oh, let's say a 1,200-word column on a computer screen, but it's quite another to miss a typo when it's the only word you're using, it's 2 inches tall, and it's the name of your company. We're talking Hall of Fame-level slip-uppery here, and yet another example of the value of a good copy editor.
Or was it a slip-up? Perhaps an ingenious conspiracy is at work. Pitons.com has been registered for seven years to CES Marketing Inc., a Vancouver, B.C., company that brokers domain names. The URL is home to a place holder home page.
Could an agent of that company have reached the Palace maintenance people with a little bribe to get the languishing domain name on national TV for a few seconds? You never know, the thinking may have gone, a basketball fan with a climbing-gear business might be watching.
A Pistons spokeswoman said Wednesday morning that the team was unaware of the misspelling but would look into the matter. A deadline e-mail and phone message to CES Marketing both went unanswered in the short time before publication. Stay tuned! The plot may thin here.
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Lakers notebook dump [PERMALINK]
A swamped basement office resulting from last week's prodigious Midwest storms and then a slight bout of ill health robbed me of two column days, and thus the chance to talk about the latter parts of the Lakers-Timberwolves series. This is bad because I strive to be a person with no unexpressed thoughts.
But as a public service I've distilled my thoughts about the series into this short burst of questions:
And one more thought that's not a question: I was too hard on Wally Szczerbiak in previewing the series. I scoffed that at least one reader e-mail would insist he'd be "some sort of key." He wasn't, obviously, as the Wolves lost in six games, but he played well. He turned the ball over too much but he did average 14.8 points and 4.5 rebounds a game in just over 30 minutes.
You need more talent than the Wolves have to win it all with the likes of Szczerbiak playing 30 minutes a game, but he was pretty good in this series.
Previous column: NBA refs are nuts
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