|Pistons' championship window might be closed|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 02 June 2007 20:00|
CLEVELAND (AP) -The Detroit Pistons' reign atop the Eastern Conference is over.|
This year, for sure.
Maybe in the near future, too.
The Cleveland Cavaliers beat Detroit 98-82 Saturday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, eliminating the East's top-seeded team with four straight wins that likely will lead to an uncertain offseason.
Anything is possible.
Coach Flip Saunders might only match the two-year tenure that his predecessors, Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle, had before exiting with a buyout and a firing, respectively.
``I feel comfortable,'' Saunders insisted.
Chauncey Billups, who is expected to be one of the NBA's top free agents this summer, may also be elsewhere next season.
The All-Star point guard said if Detroit's offer is equal to the best deal he can find on the market, he expects to be back.
``Hopefully it all works out, but that's down the road,'' he said.
Chris Webber will be a free agent, too.
The 34-year-old center hinted, however, that he might retire.
``Right now, it hurts. I don't know,'' Webber said. ``It takes a lot of energy.''
The Pistons may also decide they're tired of Rasheed Wallace's act.
Wallace needed to be restrained from physically going after an official after getting ejected with two technicals early in the fourth quarter as the Cavs pulled away.
``It was a tough time for that to happen,'' Billups said. ``He played his heart out, but he kind of lost it. He's very emotional and that's what we love about him.''
The Pistons used to win games when they faced adversity, but they simply crumbled against the Cavs.
On the brink of elimination or with a chance to advance, the Pistons are 20-4 dating to 2003, with three current starters playing key roles. The setbacks in the pressure-packed situations came Saturday night, as defending champions in Game 7 of the 2005 NBA finals against San Antonio, in Game 6 of the conference finals last year to Miami and when New Jersey won the conference finals in a sweep four years ago.
When the Cavs took control away early in the fourth quarter, Saunders put his hands on his head and watched in disbelief from the sideline as LeBron James stole a pass and scored at the other end of the court on a three-point play.
While Detroit's run might be over, it certainly was one the franchise could be proud of, with five straight conference finals appearances, two NBA finals and one championship.
Since 1984, only the Los Angeles Lakers have been more consistent in the playoffs, with a run that ended with a sixth straight conference finals appearance in 1989.
``A lot of teams would love to be in this position,'' Billups said.
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