Oddly enough, game one of the Pistons-Bulls series gets off before the conclusion of our final first round matchup, Rockets-Jazz, at 9:30 ET tonight in Houston. Who doesn’t love a Game 7? My odds are on Houston for that one, not because they are at home, but because they have the two players in the series with the most “dominance potential,” — which I explained a couple weeks ago — T-Mac and Yao. The wild card, Kirilenko, came up big in game six with a roto line to die for, 14 pts, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocks in 35 minutes. But when it comes down to win-or-go-home, I’ll take the man who has already shown in this series (game five) that he can single handedly put the Rockets on top . . . and he’s not the 7-footer. For the Jazz to win this one, they will need one of those perfect team-performances, 12 assists from Deron, a 20-10 from Boozer, 3’s and solid D from Okur and while we’re at it, some clutch shots from the forgotten playoff hero, Derek Fisher. Rockets, 95-88.
This Pistons-Bulls series should display some of the better team basketball of the season and I believe the winner of this should advance fairly easily to the Finals over clearly inferior Cavs and Nets squads. While most people have been picking the Pistons since they got Webber and the Bulls sweep of the Heat (which I called) was overrated to the point that the media people are simply writing it off as a win against what Simmons called “a team that could have doubled as the cast for “Cocoon 3,” — I’m still going to take the Bulls. The Pistons have few glaring weaknesses, they’re as solid as they always have been — trademark defense, low post scoring, guys who can hit big 3’s, slashers and good teamwork on both ends which has been bolstered by Webber’s passing — but the Bulls have all that, too, with the once-glaring exception of low post scoring.
Playoff series most often come down to which team can pull it together and win on the road. Now which seems more likely? The young and energetic not-so-Baby-Bulls going into the Palace and stealing one, or the deliberate and efficient Pistons robbing the fans in Chicago? I’ll go with the Bulls on that one, too.
The “revenge” factor doesn’t feel too strong for Ben Wallace, but I don’t think anyone takes him as the type to back down from the challenge of former teammates — not like VC did in Toronto at least. The key for the Bulls, who will need plenty of those off-balance 3’s from Gordon and a couple good stretches from their two rooks, Tyrus and Sefolosha, remains Deng. One of the biggest knocks against the Bulls before, I feel, is that they were almost too deep in that they had all the pieces but lacked maturity and a “that guy.” But against the Heat, the world witnessed Deng emerged as “that guy” for this team. I hope the Blazers feels stupid for not trading Zach for him now — that feeling is not even considering yet that Deng is just a good person in general.
Not to mention that there is the potential, as we saw last year against the Cavs, for the Pistons to fall asleep at the wheel a bit — more than possible after the Magic sweep. There might be a slower, more 90’s, pace to these games than most fans will want, but I’m looking forward to quality play throughout in what should be a back and forth series. Hopefully this pick doesn’t become too cliche in the wake of the Warriors upset but I’m with the Bulls in 7, and into the Finals from there.