As my colleague, Ian Thomsen, so astutely pointed out, Boston does not have the look of a championship team. Detroit? With two playoff series under their belts, the Pistons are walking with a championship swagger. Detroit put on a closeout clinic in Game 5 against Orlando, outscoring the Magic 26-18 in the fourth quarter while turning the free throw line (28 of 32 for the game) into a potent weapon. Play of the game (and MVP of the series) goes to Tayshaun Prince (pictured), who swatted away Hedo Turkoglu's dunk attempt late in the fourth quarter, sealing the game.
Detroit won despite being outshot (48.4-36.1 percent, including 36.4 to 21.4 from three-point range) and outrebounded (46-38) by the Magic. How? By absolutely hammering Orlando in the turnover department: The Pistons pressure D forced 21 Magic turnovers while giving away just three of their own.
No one benefits more from the freedom allotted by referees in the postseason than Detroit. For the second consecutive series the Pistons bullied their opponent. Dwight Howard -- arguably the most imposing inside presence in the league -- was banged, bumped and bruised by a wave of Pistons that include Rasheed Wallace, Jason Maxiell, Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff. If Detroit is allowed to continue to play an "overly" physical style, it doesn't matter who it plays in the next round: the Pistons will breeze to the Finals.
The Pistons faithful will breathe a sigh of relief now that Chauncey Billups could have as long as a week to rest his sore hamstring. But that doesn't mean there isn't cause for concern. As Pistons strength and conditioning guru Arnie Kander points out, Billups has never suffered a hamstring injury. Moreover, Detroit's medical staff, led by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Teitge, told the Detroit News that hamstrings can take anywhere from 36 hours to six months to fully heal (though Teitge says Billups's injury is more in the 36-hour range). Billups is easily the most indispensable Piston and his recovery will be critical.
A 52-win season and a second-round showing is enough for Orlando to call this season a success but the Magic have two glaring deficiencies to address in the offseason. First, the Magic need to find a physical presence to play next to Howard. Tony Battie, who missed the entire 2007-08 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, is an option if he can come back healthy next season but if not, Orlando will have to scour the free agent/trade market. Too often Howard looked like a man alone on an island in the paint. Speaking of Howard, his Superman persona looked more like Clark Kent at the free throw line in Game 5, connecting on 6 of 15 from the charity stripe. Howard, who shot 59 percent from the line in the regular season, worked with a shooting coach last summer and will need to continue that work this offseason, or else Hack-a-Shaq will give way to Hack-a-Dwight.
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