They beat New Jersey last year because J-Kidd was hurt; they beat the Lakers last year because Malone was hurt; they beat Indiana this year because Artest was exiled – and JO was hurt; the only reason they beat Miami was because Shaq was hurt and D-Wade got hurt.

Notice the pattern?

And even with the win last night, there were whispers. Whispers that Chauncey may not have heard. The only reason they won tonight was because Manu got hurt …

Careless whispers. As if the Pistons are never going to dance again.

But one-two step they will, because remember … he asked for this.


It was past midnight and Chauncey's night was just ending.

Every person who got interviewed after the game was asked a question about him.

Rip: "Chauncey, like yourself, seemed to be very offensive-minded tonight … " Duncan: "Talk about the guard play for the Pistons, especially Chauncey … " Popovich: "Tell us how Chauncey controlled the game … " Coach Brown: "How important is it to get Chauncey going because it seemed that there was a stretch tonight where he really got his offense going … "

Chauncey Billups
Billups took it right at the Spurs in Game 3, and he'll have to continue to do just that.

Even he got asked.

"Talk about the surge you had, the main run you had (at the end of the half). You strive on being Mr. Big Shot … "

"I've got to pick my spots really when to be aggressive and when not to," he responded to the room half-filled with people. "I a lot of times kind of take it on my shoulders to get us out of ruts."

Season ruts, series ruts, game ruts. It doesn't matter. Last night was all about him.

But he left the Palace not thinking of any of this, not trying to hear what anyone said, not falling into any media or Spurs traps, not feeling himself.

Again, "This is not a beauty contest," is how his mind works.

He just staged left in his André Holliday custom black four-button two-piece.

That's when I saw him. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder, as he has after every game.

We walked.

His team's now down 2-1, and I could see it in his face, so I asked: "You're happy now, aren't you? Your backs are still against the wall and you're happy?"

And just like the laid-back brotha from Denver that I've known since high school, who still has the most beautiful wife in the NBA, who at an All-Star game in D.C. came to chill with a bunch of regular fellas from Howard at a hotel party instead of doing the A-list Puffy-invite thing, he calmly said back to me, "Oh yeah, no doubt, no doubt. This was a must-win for us, but we gotta do the same thing on Thursday."

Then that smile came across his face, just at the thought of Game 4.

Maybe he is that good.

"You know me, Scoop," he said before I didn't see him again. "This is the way I like it."

Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Sole Provider: 30 Years of NIKE Basketball," "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.

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