RASHEED KEEPS HIS PROMISE; TEAMMATES BACK HIM UP
Rasheed Wallace believes in his teammates.
He does not make guarantees because he is arrogant or disrespectful. He makes them because he knows the guys he plays with better than the rest of us.
He knows his teammates play best when they are doubted and in trouble. They are like caged animals when someone is about to shut the door on them.
For the second year in a row a Guaransheed came true. The Pistons made Wallace a prophet again by pounding Indiana 89-76 Sunday at Conseco Field house to even this best of seven series 2-2.
It was a must-win obviously. But more important it was a must perform game. What I mean by that is the Pistons had to give maximum effort to beat the Pacers. It is something they forgot the last two games. They tried to do just enough to win, but the Pacers are too mentally tough to go down without a fight.
"It's just guys responding, " Rasheed Wallace said. "It is just guys going out and playing. I am the megaphone on the team. I say what other people feel. "
Privately the Pistons guarantee victory in every game. They always believe they will win when they hit the court. But Wallace is not afraid to sound off when he sees fit.
Last year he played terribly after saying the Pistons would beat the Pacers in Game 2. This year he had a nice 17-point, 12-rebound and 5-block effort. I've always said I am more interested in Wallace guaranteeing he will play well. And he did.
"He will be the first one to tell you his team backed him up, " Pistons Coach Larry Brown. "The team cares so much about him they wanted to make sure everything worked out favorably."
Sometimes the Pistons need to be awaken. They came out flat again but were in command after a 19-1 run. You saw the swagger from then on and although the Pacers got within six points they were never a factor in this game.
The Pistons returned to what got them here. They defended and worked the ball around. They were physical and fundamentally sound.
One critical adjustment was putting more pressure on Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley. They did not put more defensive pressure on him. They placed more pressure on him by forcing him to play defense against Billups. Billups took him to the hole, posted him up and finished with 29 points and six assists.
Tinsley lost his composure and finished with seven turnovers and one assist.
"He is tough and we will continue to battle," Billups said.
When the Pacers cut the lead to six points in the third quarter Billups took over. He not only became Mr. Big Shot but he was also Mr. Big Pass and Mr. Big Hustle.
"It was a tough little stretch. We knew they would make a little run, "Billups said. "I wanted to be aggressive."
Tinsley became worn and tired and he was unable to penetrate the Pistons defense as much as he did the last two games. The Pistons needed Billups even more because Rip Hamilton is struggling because of injury and his lift is not what it was against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The dangerous thing about the Pistons is when one part breaks down, another usually steps up.
"I know the character of this team," Rasheed Wallace said. "It is answering the bell. We could not afford to go down 3-1 to this team. So we had to come out and answer the bell. "
The Pacers lost their composure took bad shots. We are also seeing the systematic breakdown of Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal. He scored just 10 points, but he had enough open looks to score 25. If he were healthy it is exactly what he would have done.
The Pistons got another break in that Reggie Miller (seven points) bricked a bunch of open shots. The Pacers also did not share the ball well enough. They lost the assist battle 22-14 and no team can win a playoff game with that low assist total.
The good news is this becomes a best of three series and the Pistons are back in command.
The bad news is the Miami Heat swept the Washington Wizards and Shaquille O'Neal is resting and getting himself ready for the Eastern Conference Finals.
So if the Pistons win this series they will be behind the eight ball again -- right where they like to be.