Remember all that talk about how the Pistons have a tendency to turn their intensity on and off like a switch? Well, consider that switch turned on ... and soldered that way. After humbling Philadelphia in back-to-back games, Detroit kept the pressure on in Game 1 against Orlando. "This is going to be a short series," remarked a scout sitting courtside. The Pistons' vaunted defense held Orlando (which shot 38.6 percent from three-point range in the regular season, the fourth best mark in the league) to just 18.8 percent from beyond the arc. Rashard Lewis (0-for-4), Hedo Turkoglu (1-3) and Keith Bogans (1-3) all struggled to find the mark Saturday. "We knew they wanted to come out and shoot a lot of 3's," said Richard Hamilton. "They have been doing that all season."
Part of Detroit's strategy was to make sure certain spots on the floor were unavailable to Orlando shooters. "That was a big part of our scouting report," Hamilton said. "Bogans shoots a lot of threes from the corner, Mo Evans shoots from the corner. One thing we're trying to do is help each other, but know where those guys are at all times. We did a good job of running them off shots."
Detroit's decided edge in this series? Size and the point guard position. Dwight Howard is Orlando's only power player with a pulse (backup center Marcin Gortat doesn't qualify) while the Pistons' muscle includes Rasheed Wallace, Jason Maxiell, Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff and Walter Hermann, who was activated for this series. Detroit dominated the glass (47-40) with Howard accounting for eight of the Magic's boards. The size disparity seemed to wear on Orlando in the fourth quarter when Orlando's Lewis committed a hard foul on Ratliff underneath the basket, a shot that seemed to be born out of frustration. "They are always pushing and shoving [Dwight]," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "It's constant physicality. They are a lot stronger, a lot more physical. They were really able to push us off cuts. It wore on us. We gave into the frustration a little bit." Said Howard, "We have to dictate the way we want to play instead of letting them do the dictating.
Meanwhile, Chauncey Billups continued to treat Jameer Nelson like a D-League call-up. Billups (19 points, seven assists) torched Nelson (seven points, five assists) for three quarters, before sitting out the entire fourth period. It was hardly a shocker: Nelson averaged just 8.5 points and 4.0 assists against Billups in the regular season. But if Orlando is to have any hope of competing in this series, Nelson has to at least play Billups to a draw.
Free throws killed the Magic, who connected on an even 50 percent (10-20) from the not-so-charitable stripe. Howard was the primary culprit, connecting on a Shaq-like 2-for-7 from the line. With Howard coming off a first-round series where he shot 56.8 percent from the line, don't be surprised to see Flip Saunders employ a Hack-a-Dwight strategy in close games.
One more note about the physical play. Detroit plays that style and is good at it. Orlando tried to play that style and, at least according to Hamilton, aren't very good at it. "You can't rough up the game with us," Hamilton said. "They tried. We like it. We enjoy it. That's the way we want to play."
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