PISTONS LOSE FOCUS, FRIED BY FOSTER
AUBURN HILLS -- The Pistons were up 10 points at half time. And I walked out of the arena towards the press area thinking they were in trouble.
While most saw prosperity, I saw a team that had stopped playing basketball. They'd lost their fire and desire. The scoreboard favored them but it was a lie.
The moral of the Pistons 92-83 loss to the Indiana Pacers is you create demons when you stop playing. After jumping to a 15-point lead the Pistons thought they could toy with the Pacers. It was a huge mistake because suddenly they created a monster named Jeff Foster.
Foster usually does not hurt people. He is a scrappy reserve who only gets opportunities to shine when Jermaine O'Neal and Dale Davis get into early foul trouble. The Pacers rarely call plays for him.
He knows he must get most of his offense by studying where teammates missed shots tend to land. And he makes sure he is in the vicinity when bricks are being laid. All night he grabbed long rebounds and short shots. He played a Ben Wallace type game and finished off the Pistons with 14 points, 20 rebounds and two blocked shots.
"I was just doing the same things I have been doing for five years, " Foster said. "I am trying to get as many rebounds as I can. If I get a chance to rebound a ball, make a lay up or a dunk I do whatever I can. "
The Pistons sometimes fall into traps. They read how great they are and begin to believe it. They lose their hunger and believe they simply need to show up to cut opponents down. The Pistons must realize they are no longer a great team unless they play with the mentality of warriors.
"Sometimes it is not a good idea to jump to a big lead," Pistons Center Ben Wallace said. "Guys tend to relax. "
When the Pistons get cute and lazy any team can cut them down to size.
It is exactly what the Pacers did. They watched the Pistons become more consumed with the referees than the Pacers and hit them with a Foster punch.
Normally, a team is in control of a series when they steal the first road game. But I do not feel the Pacers are in charge of this series. The Pistons are a good road team and Indiana struggles at home.
They lost at Conseco twice to Boston. If the Celtics can win there, the Pistons should also.
I picked the Pistons to win this series in six even though they should win in five because I feared they would lose interest at some point.
They did lose focus. Now they must gain respect for the Pacer, a team which keeps picking itself off the floor.