We had two teams out there tonight for the Pistons. One, where we matched up defensively. That team was over plus 30. And then we had the other half of the game, where we did not match up defensively, and we were minus about 14.(or so.) Jason Maxiell is quick enough to cover Lewis. This simple fact meant that when Maxiell was in the game, paired up with any or Sheed, Dyess, or Theo, we rocked. Totally rocked. Orlando could hardly score on us, as long as we matched up. Conversely, whenever we tried putting two bigs in against a team that only plays one big at a time, we did poorly. (With the exception of a 4 minute stint in the 3rd quarter with Dyess and Sheed in.) Now, I have no qualm at all about how things went in this game. Just letting people know what happened. Letting them know that we could do even better, by matching them defensively the whole game vs. only half. We have the players to do so. This was probably the most fun I have had at the Palace watching a game in years. I'd say since 04. The fans were into it from the start, and Blaha complimented us fans for giving such great vocal support to the team; loudly cheering on virtually every play the Pistons made. I'd say the noise level got the loudest on that three Sheed nailed as we started the game out with a lead. My daughter went with me to this one. So far, if she has attended a game in a series, the Pistons have always won that series. So its in the bag. Guess they still have to play the games though. Good practice for next round. (Of course, the players can't think that way even though we can.) Back to the game. We started out with a good lead. Maxiell started again. Six minutes into the game, after picking up one foul, Maxiell came out and Dyess came in. Our lead was soon gone. We were having trouble defending Orlando's two small forwards, Turk and Lewis. Now, you ask why Flip would sit Maxiell with one foul? Hey, it kept us in control of our rotation. Maxiell, if the game would have been closer, would have ended up with just under 30 minutes. About right. Remember, we do have to worry about Maxy being fresh for later rounds. He is already so far beyond last years minutes total that you really do have to worry about such things. Anyway, Maxiell got four stints in the game, with plenty of rest between each stint, and none of the stints lasting too long. Somewhat surprisingly, JMAX was put on Howard a whole lot, and JMAX did an excellent job guarding the big fellow. The fouls he did get were not from guarding his man, but usually playing help out D. (Which means if we really wanted him to stay in the game a bit longer, we could tell him to limit his fouls a bit further in those situations.) JMAX came up big in the scoring department, getting 10 points in the 4th as we iced the game with only Rip being out there among our four stars. Even though he only scored 12, he got player of the game. And very deservedly so for his defense. Nine boards, three blocks. Quite a game indeed. JMAX did not have his typical scoring game. Instead, his scoring was from jumpers and made free throws. Sheed played great D. He was called upon to chase Lewis around a whole lot, and did not do that well there; but anyone wanting to come inside with that basketball had Sheed to contend with. He did guard Howard some, and I'd say if Sheed guarded Howard the whole game Howard would be near scoreless. I mean, like, we have so much depth, defensively, against the likes of Howard. Dyess took his turns and did ok gaurding Howard. Then Theo had a good long shift against him as we out this one to bed to start the 4th with a 17-4 run. Billups won his matchup with Nelson rather easily. Nelson did manage to cause a little bit of havoc, getting to the hoop on the slower Billups a couple of times, breaking down our D a couple of times. But Billups had his number in the 3rd quarter especially, where he continually drove in and forced Nelson to foul him. Nelson was pulled from the game, and Orlando did surge a bit to end the 4th. It was a 7 point game going into the 4th. (And thats where Maxiell and Theo, Stuckey, Rip, and Tay had that run. Herrmann was in for the end of it though.) Afflalo only played about 4 minutes in the first half. (Maybe up to 6. He came in and out to end the 1st quarter, spelling Rip for a moment, and then was used to rest Tay for a bit, maybe 4 minutes, in the 2nd quarter. He played solid D. Just what we need. A bit more on the game flow. We took a lead to start the game, with Maxiell in. The game got tied back up after he went out. He came back in, we got a lead again. He went out, and lead did not go away, but went down to one point. To start the 3rd quarter, again, we build a lead. The lead increased this time after Maxiell left the floor, but shrunk back before the end of the quarter. Then Maxiell came in to start the 4th, and just flat out took over the game. A jumper made by Stuckey though started that run. Anyone who knows me can imagine how thrilled I was to see Stuckey and Maxiell starring like that. Rip helped with some free throws and a couple of buckets. Tay hit a jumper. And our defense, of course since we were matching up, was fantastic.) Theo had 3 offensive rebounds, one of which he put back. Two of those offensive rebounds were early in that run, and were a large part of what triggered it. On one drive in by Theo, he got mugged. I am sitting on the other end of the court from that play, so I don't know the details exactly. But Rip got to shoot a tech out of it all. Tay had another block, on Hedo. For the game, Tay did some scoring and hauled down his share of rebounds. (12 points I heard on the post game show driving home. I remember he was leading us in rebounds with 5 at the half.) On defense, if he was guarding someone, they had to take a really tough shot to score any points. Hedo and Turk had good games solely because we chose not to match up much of the game, not because of any inability to check these guys on Tay's part. Dyess did hit some jumpers, but what really helped us was him going inside some, with success, with drawing key fouls. Look, Orlando, since they only use one big, is about as soft as you can get as far as guarding the middle. I loved that Dyess was in there exploiting that. Rip ended up with 17 points. He started out fast hitting several jumpers early. He is way too quick and tall for any of Orlando's guards to score on. This matchup is hugely in our favor. Stuckey only scored 4 points, but he also is too fast, and too tall, for Orlando's guards. He fits right in to this series. Yes, it would be nice to see him drive in more. I bet he is just sizing up the situation. I bet we see him go to the hoop a lot yet in this series. Be very afraid Orlando. Hayes is now 4th on the depth chart apparently at small forward. Strike that. Fifth. Stuckey has been spelling Tay some here and there also, besides Afflalo, and now Herrmann. Herrmann did nothing of note really. He got to the line and made a free throw. But on the other hand, I did not notice him getting burnt on D either. (I will have to watch the film to check on this, but he seemed to guard Turk just fine. And if so, of course the question becomes do you play Afflalo or Herrmann. Well, sometimes Orlando goes with 3 guards, so maybe its Afflalo then and Herrmann otherwise. It will be interesting to see.) Can't think of much else at the moment. Again, this was one extremely fun game to be at. Anyone else who goes to the remaining playoff games, please try to live up to the standard set by this crowd tonight. I'll add that Hunter did not dress. He was not listed on the injury report. Herrmann was activated in his place. GO PISTONS!!!!!