Is it possible to lose a game in the first 100 seconds? That might have happened to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of their series against the Detroit Pistons Thursday night.
Their first possession ended with a steal, then a layup-and-foul three-point play by Rip Hamilton. The second ended on a travel by Samuel Dalembert, followed by a made jumper by Hamilton. On Philly's third possession Andre Iguodala threw away a pass. Hamilton hit another jumper on the other end.
A minute-40 gone, 7-0 Detroit, the Wachovia Center no louder than a library and the Sixers looking hangdog. Philly looked cooked.
Now, no game is over 100 seconds in, and the 76ers looked mighty toasty early in Game 1, which they came back to win. Shoot, the worst team in the NBA can make up a seven-point deficit against the best, and the 76ers are far from the worst team in the league.
But with the Pistons leading the series 3-2 and having appeared to flip the playoff switch to "on" in the second half of Game 4 and dominated ever since, the Sixers looked like a team with 46 minutes and 20 seconds of playing out the string in its immediate future. Soon it was 10-0, then 16-2. Philadelphia never got back in the game.
At least I hope not. I stopped watching. [Checks box score] OK, good!
Just kidding. The Pistons scarcely broke a sweat on the way to a 100-77 win and a 4-2 series win. They might not be the best team in the league, but they can look like it when they have a mind to. The trick -- and this seems to be a trick for any NBA team that's been good for a while and isn't the San Antonio Spurs -- is to have a mind to often enough.
The Pistons are saying the two losses to the 76ers, a team that went 40-42 in the regular season and had lost four straight to close out the year, were a wake-up call. Oh, also that first half of Game 4. Wake-up call.
This team rides the snooze button like I did when I worked the 5 a.m. shift and had to put a second alarm clock in the bathroom to keep from sleeping through my whole workday in nine-minute increments.
The Boston Celtics, the favorite to meet Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals, will be saying much the same thing about their two losses to the Atlanta Hawks in a series that, so far, the Celtics have won three games by an average of more than 22 points per win. Wake-up call, those two road losses.
Do teams, even teams like the Pistons that are all jaded and world-weary and tragically bored with the first round after making the playoffs seven years in a row without ever losing an opening series, do teams like that really need a wake-up call? Shouldn't the wake-up call have been someone saying, "It's the playoffs"?
The fact that the Pistons lost Games 1 and 3 to the Sixers, rather than Games 1 and 2, leads me to believe that the Pistons weren't so much a team in need of a wake-up call as an aging team that just doesn't have it some nights. They reach for that highest gear and it's not there.
Not the best way to get to the Finals, though I'll stand by my prediction that that's exactly where the Pistons are going. They're going to have their hands full with Dwight Howard in the second round as they play the Orlando Magic. He's a different kettle of fish from Dalembert.
I don't think it'll happen, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Pistons find themselves groping around for the old alarm clock in the Orlando series and not finding it.