NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Chicago

NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Chicago

NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Chicago
May 2nd, 2007

(Sports Network) - Central Division rivals clash in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as the top-seeded Detroit Pistons meet the fifth-seeded Chicago Bulls in a best-of-seven series.

The Bulls and Pistons will write another chapter in what was once the most heated rivalry in the Eastern Conference during the late 1980s and into the early 1990s.

There is a lot of playoff history between Chicago and Detroit. This is the sixth time these clubs have battled in the postseason. The Pistons have won three of the five series.

Chicago eliminated the Pistons in seven games in the 1974 Western Conference semifinals and swept Detroit, 4-0, in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.

The Pistons beat the Bulls in five, 4-1, in the 1988 East semis. They also knocked out Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals in 1989 (4-2) and 1990 (4-3).

Detroit won its fifth Central Division title in the past six seasons during the 2006-07 campaign. The Pistons, who have reached the postseason for a sixth straight year, fell in six games against the Miami Heat in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons are the No. 1 seed for the third time in four years and own home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs.

In round one, the Pistons swept Dwight Howard and No. 8 Orlando, 4-0. All- Stars Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton led the way for Detroit. Billups averaged team-highs in points (22.3 ppg) and assists (7.0 apg), while Hamilton posted 18.3 points per game.

The unsung hero of the Pistons Tayshaun Prince did his usual stellar job. He averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 boards and 3.8 assists while also playing excellent defense. Rasheed Wallace contributed 15.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while Chris Webber registered 12.0 points and 7.8 boards.

Detroit has appeared in the East finals four straight years and has made it to at least the conference semifinals for a sixth straight year.

Former Piston Ben Wallace and the Bulls are fresh off a surprising sweep of the 2006 NBA Champion Miami Heat. Ben Wallace, who signed with Chicago as an unrestrictive free agent last offseason, left Central Division-rival Detroit and signed a lucrative, multi-year contract with the Bulls last summer. A four-time All-Star, Ben Wallace spent the previous six seasons with the Pistons and helped them win an NBA title in 2004.

Against the Heat, who became the first defending champion to be swept in the first round since the 1957 Warriors, Chicago played tough interior defense and knocked down the clutch shots.

Luol Deng shined against the Heat, as he averaged a team-best 26.3 points and 9.0 rebounds. Ben Wallace collected 9.3 points and a club-high 9.8 boards in round one, while sharp-shooting Ben Gordon posted 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and a team-high 5.5 assists per game.

Chicago advanced past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 1998, when it last won the NBA title. Prior to defeating Miami, the Bulls last playoff series victory was over the Utah Jazz in six games during the 1998 NBA Finals.

The Bulls are in the playoffs for the third straight year and 28th time in team history. The six-time NBA champion Bulls had lost in the first round the previous two years. They fell in six games to the Washington Wizards in 2005 and were eliminated by Miami last year.

During the regular season, the Bulls won three of the four meetings between the clubs. Chicago and the Pistons split a pair at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and the Bulls swept two contests at the United Center.

STARTING FRONTCOURT: It will be very physical down low in this series. Ben Wallace will not be afraid to show his former teammates how tough he can be around the basket, while the Pistons will try and match the intensity of Chicago's man in the middle.

Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Webber will be ready. Prince will guard Deng and should make him work hard for his points, while Rasheed Wallace needs to knock down his outside jumpers to pull Ben Wallace away from the hoop.

P.J. Brown is on the court for his rebounding and defense. The Bulls need him to keep Webber in check and not allow him to beat them with his passing and outside shooting.

Ben Wallace is on a mission to show Detroit management that they made a mistake by letting him leave through free agency, and Deng is a rising star who showed what he is capable of against Miami. The Pistons threesome is very solid and they know what it takes to win the big games. Experience will win out in this matchup.

EDGE: PISTONS

STARTING BACKCOURT: Gordon and Kirk Hinrich are an excellent tandem. Hinrich, who averaged 11.0 points and 5.3 assists against the Heat, is a hard-nosed player who keeps improving, while Gordon loves to have ball in his hands at crunch time and is a future All-Star.

But, Billups and Hamilton are All-Stars and are arguably the best backcourt in the NBA. Both players can do it all and live for this time of year. They are solid defenders, and control the offensive flow and tempo for the Pistons. Billups and Hamilton are as good as it gets.

The Bulls backcourt is very good, but the Pistons is better.

EDGE: PISTONS

BENCH: Veteran forward Antonio McDyess gives Detroit's head coach Flip Saunders flexibility up front. McDyess can play alongside Rasheed Wallace or Webber. He only averaged 5.5 points against Orlando, but is capable of making a difference on the scoreboard.

Center Dale Davis and guards Carlos Delfino and Ronald Murray also saw some action against the Magic, but were not very effective. While McDyess, who collected 9.3 boards per game in round one, is a solid option off the bench, Saunders knows he is in trouble if he has to go to his bench often.

Andres Nocioni, who averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds against Miami, can play both forward spots and is dangerous from the perimeter or near the basket. He played over 25 minutes per game in round one and is a key to head coach Scott Skiles rotation.

Guard Chris Duhon and swingman Thabo Sefolosha were serviceable versus the Heat, while rookie Tyrus Thomas saw very little action. Skiles has more athleticism and flexibility off his bench than Saunders does.

This series won't be won by the reserves. However, the Bulls do have an edge in this matchup.

EDGE: BULLS

PREDICTION: This will be a very physical series. The Bulls are on the move, but are not ready to get over the hump with their current roster. Very similar to 1988, 1989 and 1990, as this version of the Bulls will learn how to win by losing to the Pistons.

Billups and Hamilton lead the Pistons to their fifth straight Eastern Conference finals. Maybe 2008 will be Chicago's year.

PISTONS IN SEVEN

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Re: NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Chicago

Betting previews of the NBA's second-round playoff series
Thu, May 3, 2007
By Associated Press

A look at the matchups in the second round of the NBA playoffs, which begin Saturday (with regular-season record, first-round series mark in parentheses):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 DETROIT PISTONS (53-29, 4-0) vs. No. 5 CHICAGO BULLS (49-33, 4-0)

Season Series: Bulls, 3-1, winning the season series for the first time since 1998 and missing a sweep only because Chris Webber tipped in a missed shot with 2.2 seconds left in Detroit's 95-93 home victory on Feb. 25. The Pistons were held to fewer than 90 points in all three losses. Luol Deng averaged 22.7 points in Chicago's victories and Ben Wallace grabbed 33 rebounds in the two wins in which he played, only eight in the loss.

Storyline:
A pair of first-round sweeps gave the Central Division rivals plenty of time off before Wallace's return to Detroit. The former Pistons center signed with Chicago as a free agent last summer, then helped the Bulls win a playoff series for the first time since Michael Jordan's final season in Chicago.

Key matchup I: Webber vs. Wallace. Wallace's rebounding and defense were the catalysts for Detroit's recent Eastern Conference powerhouses. But with the Pistons becoming more offensive minded under Flip Saunders, Webber is in some ways a better fit because of his passing and outside shooting ability.

Key matchup II: Tayshaun Prince vs. Luol Deng. Miami couldn't guard Deng, who averaged 26.3 points and shot 58 percent from the field in the first round. But the Heat had nobody as good as Prince, a second-team all-defensive pick who has plenty of postseason experience guarding the opponent's top offensive threat.

X-factor: Wallace's free throw shooting. Big Ben was so bad from the line in the 2006 playoffs - making just 27 percent - that he became an offensive liability in the conference finals loss to Miami. So, the Pistons must have been stunned to see him deal the Heat's repeat hopes a final blow by going 7-for-8 in Game 4 of Chicago's sweep.

Prediction: Bulls in 7.

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Re: NBA Playoff Preview - Detroit vs. Chicago

Tyrus Thomas could see more minutes in Round 2 versus the Pistons after playing sparingly in the Round 1 sweep over Miami, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Thomas had success against the Pistons during the regular season. "It's possible," coach Scott Skiles said when asked if he might use Thomas more against Detroit. "Frankly, Tyrus has to be more reliable. It's that simple. I know everybody wants to see him go out and dunk the ball and block a shot. But we have a team game, and every person is predicated on what the other people are doing, much like Detroit.

We have to know that everybody we put on the floor knows exactly what we're supposed to be doing, exactly where they're supposed to be and exactly what's going on. That's the long answer. The short answer is: Yes, I can see him being more of a factor in this series, and we have this period of time to get him ready for that."

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