The Pistons avoided trouble Sunday.
They avoided giving an underdog unnecessary confidence and swagger.
The Pistons erased an eight-point fourth quarter lead with huge shots from Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 97-92 in overtime.
This was not a buzzer beater victory. It was a monster beater.
The win gave the Pistons a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff opener and they can finish off the 76ers Tuesday night (8 p.m.) at The Palace. There is no way the Pistons will lose three straight to Philadelphia now. So the goal should be to close out the Sixers and rest up for the next series.
But the Pistons would have been asking for trouble if they'd lost Sunday. They would have created an all new feel good feeling with the Sixers. As it is there is a new attitude regarding Allen Iverson by his teammates. They believe in him because they now know his ball hoggish ways sets them up for easy jumpers and layups.
In years past teammates became resentful of Iverson. They viewed him as a ball hog whose only goal was to get as many points as he could while teammates stood around. Now his role is slightly different.
He still controls the ball 80 percent of the time but now he is a gunner and passer. That gets more people involved and it makes guys want to play for him not battle against him.
Best of three series are very dangerous. That is what made Sunday's victory so important. The Pistons did not want the Sixers to start seeing demons.
This week we will hear how this series is over and people won't give the Sixers much credit. But folks just don't realize how close this came to being a dog fight.
It is the last thing the Pistons wanted this early in the playoffs.
FROM HERO TO GOAT
** There was a very interesting moment late in the fourth quarter that shows how games can change on a dime. Billups became a hero by hitting a three-point shot that gave the Pistons a one-point lead. The Sixers were down to their final chance and the Pistons appeared to have won the game when Willie Green had the ball 18-feet from the basket with nowhere to go. But Billups got too close and fouled Green who was in a desperate situation.
C Bill turned from hero to goat at the turn of a page.
But then Green gagged on the first free throw and missed it. He made the second to send the game into overtime.
The tone of this series changed in Philadelphia. Although the Pistons split in Philadelphia the Sixers controlled the tempo. The Pistons need to slow the tempo down a bit. It is essential to avoid any more surprises.
Kyle Korver is a rookie. Yes, he is in his second year in the NBA but the sharp shooter is a playoff rookie. Did you see the desperation off balanced two-point shot he took in overtime when the Sixers needed three. There was no need to rush. But playoff intensity creates stress and forces those with little experience to make bad decisions. This is a learning experience for Korver and the rest of the young Sixers.
C WEBB SLOWING DOWN?
A number of people have criticized Chris Webber for becoming a jump shooter. He rarely attacks the basket. Actually he should he should be praised. He has a bad knee and it is very difficult for him to drive and attack the basket. He has found a way to be productive despite limitations.
I believe much of the criticism stems from Webber's role in getting the University of Michigan on probation.