|Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Pistons Lead Series, 2-1|
|C. Billups???||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|R. Hamilton||SG||Maurice Evans|
|Tayshaun Prince||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Jason Maxiell||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|R. Wallace||C||Dwight Howard|
Following Game Three, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy drew an interesting parallel between the Pistons' situation in this series vs. ours in the last series. We won big in the first game at home, won another close one at home, then got blown out in Game Three on the road. Hopefully we can defend Amway Arena better than the Raptors did in their second, and final, playoff game at Air Canada Centre this season.
Regarding Chauncey Billups: I think he'll play, but that's mere speculation. Here's Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel with the latest update (as of Friday evening, when I'm writing this post):
"It's sore; it's still sore, man," Billups said when asked about his hamstring when he arrived at Amway Arena for practice. "I don't know [if I can play Saturday]. I can't honestly say either way at this point."
There was no noticeable limp when Billups walked, but there was no spring in his step, either, offering little insight into his immediate future.
Povtak asserts that the Pistons will be "vulnerable" if Billups doesn't play. I'm not sure I buy that. Even without Billups, the Pistons have Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace. That lineup is more venerable than it is vulnerable. Add the fact that they have a capable rookie (Rodney Stuckey) to take Billups' starting minutes and, well, the Magic have only a slight edge on the Pistons.
It'll be interesting to see how the Pistons defend Rashard Lewis tonight. Lewis exploded in the last outing for 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting (33 points on 15 shots... I'm still drooling) and routinely had open looks. A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive.com reports (via DBB) that Amir Johnson might get the call against Lewis tonight. Johnson, in his third season after being drafted from Westchester High School, is quick; a good leaper; and fresh, averaging only 12 minutes a game this season. He's the sort of guy who can give Lewis fits on the perimeter. If/when Johnson defends Lewis, Rashard should look to post him up. Lewis' post game is underrated, probably because so many of his shots are three-pointers. But he has the skill, strength, and footwork to befuddle the younger Johnson.
It'll also be interesting to see if the Pistons can get any production from Jason Maxiell and Antonio McDyess. Up until Wednesday night, the Pistons were undefeated this postseason in Maxiell's starts. That perfect mark changed because he was a non-factor offensively (0 points?! Not even one monster dunk?!) and had more trouble containing Dwight Howard than usual. McDyess also laid an egg. If either of them can bounce back, the Pistons stand a good chance of winning. If not, they're still a damn good team. But so are we.
Please don't hurt us, Rasheed.
Tipoff's at 5 PM on ESPN. The underrated Dan Schulman/Doris Burke broadcast team has the call, according to The Sporting Blog.