Updated: June 7, 2005, 4:54 PM ET

Game 7: Detroit at Miami

Ten of our writers prognosticate Game 7:

Game 7 winner: Detroit

I'm never going to change a prediction after a series has started.

So I stick with the Detroit Pistons winning the East finals, even though history reminds me that the home team wins Game 7 in the playoffs 82 percent of the time.

Not that it takes too much arm-twisting to get me to re-endorse the Pistons, no matter what history says. As maddening as they've been all season, with their intermittent intensity and their conflicted coach, I can't see the defending champs melting down again against the banged-up hosts.

I believe the Miami Heat have to either get one of Shaquille O'Neal's old wrecking-ball games or a heroic comeback from Dwyane Wade to knock the champs out, and I struggle to believe either is physically up to that level of heroism.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com

Game 7 winner: Detroit

The Pistons, collectively, have been here before.

They know how to prepare for, and function in, a Game 7 atmosphere. The tempo naturally will be slower, for both sides will try to limit their mistakes, which is to Detroit's liking.

All that, combined with neither Wade nor Shaq being 100 percent, will be enough to overcome the home-court advantage. Detroit wins.
Ric Bucher, ESPN The Magazine

Game 7 winner: Miami

Miami wins because Shaquille O'Neal is on a mission.

He said he would be devastated if he doesn't win the title this year. Devastated.

When the most dominant player since Jordan says that, you don't bet against him, at least in the conference finals. Shaq was embarrassed by his Game 4 stinker and it showed in Game 5. It'll show again in Game 7.

Plus, Dwyane Wade will be back. Sore and hurting, but back nonetheless.

Look for Shaq and Flash to put pressure on Detroit's defense and for Damon Jones, Eddie Jones and Rasual Butler to be on target from behind the arc.
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine

Game 7 winner: Detroit

There are several mysteries as we head into Game 7:

  • Dwyane Wade's health. Will the strained rib cage heal enough to allow him to be what he's been – in a word, special – throughout the playoffs?

  • Shaq's stamina. He was much better in Game 6, but the quick, 48-hour turnaround could impact him. With that thigh injury, he's been far from his usual self in this series.

  • The defending champs. At times during these playoffs the Pistons have looked like anything but. Will they show poise on the road in a Game 7? Their emotional stability has been an issue throughout the playoffs.

    No doubt the home team has a huge advantage in a Game 7, but I'm going to go with experience. The Pistons know what's at stake and what it takes to win under adversity. I'm going to stick with the Pistons, as poorly as they've played at times.

    Either way, Game 7 of the conference finals is all you can ask for.
    Greg Anthony, ESPN Insider

    Game 7 winner: Miami

    The Miami Heat will advance to the NBA Finals because they have the two most dominant players in the series.

    The decision to hold Dwyane Wade out of Game 6 will prove to be the wisest decision of the season for the Heat. A healthier Wade along with Shaquille O'Neal playing at home should propel Miami to the Finals.

    The Pistons will not give up the trophy without a serious fight, but the Heat were the best team in the Eastern Conference for a reason.
    Tim Legler, ESPN Insider

    Game 7 winner: Detroit

    The Pistons are at their best when pushed against the wall. They've been there and proven they can win big games.

    When it has to be, their defense is a little tighter. Chauncey Billups is more patient. Ben Wallace is more active. Rasheed Wallace is more assertive.

    I expect nothing less in Game 7 from Detroit, with or without a healthy Dwyane Wade.
    Chad Ford, ESPN Insider

    Game 7 winner: Miami

    Considering I picked the Heat to win in seven before this all started, I see no reason to change my forecast now.

    Obviously, Dwyane Wade's injury is a huge negative for Miami. But the positive sign for the Heat is that it looks like Shaquille O'Neal slowly is regaining his superhuman powers.

    If Shaq plays as well in Game 7 as he did in Game 6 and Wade is a reasonable facsimile of his awesome self, Miami will head to its first-ever NBA Finals.
    John Hollinger, ESPN Insider

    Game 7 winner: Detroit

    Sorry Miami Heat, the Detroit Pistons will make it back to the NBA Finals.

    Whether Heat star guard Dwyane Wade will play or how much he can do if he is available is a major question. And with a right thigh injury, Heat center Shaquille O'Neal will be playing his third game in five days.

    Expect the champions to show the heart of a champion on the road. The Pistons play their best basketball with their backs against the wall.
    Marc J. Spears

    Game 7 winner: Detroit

    Pistons by double figures.

    And it's not so much about D-Wade's rib injury as you might think.

    This game is all about the Pistons' experience, which will finally pay off. Detroit is more focused and hungry than they've been all season. They will absolutely refuse to give in.

    They proved they are head and shoulders above the Heat in Game 6. The result would have been the same with Wade in the game.

    The Heat think they can win. The Pistons know they will.
    Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine

    Game 7 winner: Detroit

    I believe Detroit is going to break through and finally win back-to-back games in this series and take Game 7.

    If Dwyane Wade does play, just how effective will he be? The Heat showed in Game 6 that they have a hard time without a player like Wade who can create his own shot or one for his teammates.

    In fact, every starter for Miami is banged up.

    Detroit's defensive pressure up the floor harassed Miami's point guards in Game 6, and this will continue.

    Bottom line: The Pistons play well when they need to.
    Brian James, ESPN Insider

    Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

    Dimes Past: May 24 | 25 | 26 | 29 | 30 | 31 | June 1 | 2 | 3

    Pic Of The Day (Miami)
    If this is how Dwyane Wade looks on Monday night, you can expect Shaq and the Miami Heat to drop a Game 7 for the first time ever.

    Three To Remember
    Monday's Game 7 marks just the fourth time since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls disassembled in 1998 – a total of 14 series – that a conference final has gone the distance.

    2002: Big Shot Rob sunk the Kings in Game 4.

    How did the previous three turn out?

    2002 West finals: Lakers 4, Sacramento 3
    The Lakers were in the Pistons' position that spring, trailing 3-2 and facing a Game 7 on the road. Of course, it easily could have a 3-1 deficit if not for Robert Horry's killer 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game 4.

    Following a highly controversial Game 6 in L.A., in which the Lakers were awarded 27 fourth-quarter free throws, Sacramento drop-kicked the decider on its home floor. The Kings missed 14 free throws and 18 of 20 attempts from 3-point range and ultimately fell, 112-106, in overtime.

    2001 East finals: Philadelphia 4, Milwaukee 3
    This one was quietly special, too.

    Each team lost a home game early in the series and wound up at Game 7 when Milwaukee rode nine triples and 41 points from Ray Allen to win Game 6 at home. Allen, though, suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of the do-or-die game that briefly sent him to the bench ... while Allen Iverson was amassing 44 points, seven assists and six boards.

    The Bucks never recovered, as Philly wound up winning in a 108-91 rout to book its spot in the Finals.

    2000 West finals: Lakers 4, Portland 3
    Another dramatic chapter in the history of the Shaq-and-Kobe Lakers.

    Surely you remember L.A. seizing a 3-1 series lead, prompting Phil Jackson to famously describe the Blazers as pressing up against "death's door."

    2000: Kobe and the Diesel rolled in L.A.

    Portland stunningly reclaimed the momentum by winning the next two games and rolling up a 15-point lead at Staples Center in the fourth quarter of Game 7.

    The Blazers then contrived to miss 13 straight shots, setting up Shaq and Kobe to haul the Lakers all the way back ... highlighted by Bryant's lob to O'Neal for a dunk (and unforgettable celebration dance) that proved to be the springboard for their first of three successive championships as a tag team.

    Marc Stein

    Daily Dime Mailbag
    Rasheed isn't the only one who feels he's getting robbed.

    No issue has brought more e-mail to the Daily Dime than officiating in the playoffs, and the fans aren't sending bouquets to the NBA, that's for sure.

    Nor do they all agree with Marc Stein, who took Rasheed Wallace to task in the last Daily Dime for Wallace's conspiracy rant, in which 'Sheed said the NBA would make sure there was a Game 7 in the East finals. On the other hand, some fans did see Stein's point.

    Here's a sampling, from all over the map:

    Chris (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Why isn't anybody talking about the officiating? Is this a conspiracy of some sort?

    The Larry Brown thing is just a distraction from the real story of the Eastern Conference Finals – the officials are taking away the Pistons' chance to repeat.

    I challenge you to go back through the last four games and count the number of times Miami gets a call and Detroit doesn't on virtually the exact same play. You can argue that the fouls and free throws are pretty even in the series, but the real story is this: When the game is close and momentum hangs in the balance, Miami gets the calls.

    You talk about Detroit losing their composure and getting technicals and you talk about Rasheed not showing up, but I'd like to see how you would respond to a similar situation.

    Why aren't people talking about this? Could it be that the average basketball fan would rather see Miami in the finals than Detroit, so the average basketball fan doesn't really care?

    Josh (Boulder, Colo.): Absolutely no mention [in the Daily Dime] of how pitiful the NBA's officiating has become? Come on!

    These games are getting so frustrating to watch. Game 5 of Pistons-Heat was decided in the first half, not by the teams, but by the officials.

    Stern better get his act together and clean this up.

    Richard (Moberly, Mo.): I agree with Marc Stein that it is absurd to think that the NBA rigs its games, but it is also obvious that the officiating is all over the map from game to game and needs to be more consistent.

    Gregg (Ann Arbor, Mich.): I disagree with Stein.

    The officiating is not performing adequately, and Stein is a fool if he thinks the NBA should maintain the status quo. The conspiracy theories exist because of the poor officiating, not a bunch of incredulous fans that want their favorite team to win.

    Chris (Miami): Is it just my Heat bias or am I the only one noticing that the Detroit Pistons are the biggest crybabies in NBA history?

    Every play down low Ben Wallace is crying and Rasheed Wallace has a panic attack on any call that doesn't go his poor little way.

    I don't understand why no one is mentioning this.

    Josh (Detroit): Just watching this Miami-Detroit series, it's unbelievable how the players are dealing with the refs.

    Now I'm a Detroit fan, but the games have been called pretty close to even – there are always a few bad calls. It just seems like instead of playing ball, 'Sheed and Rip are complaining about every single call and non-call all game long.

    Ken: Every time the results of a particular playoff game of playoff series seems to be ones that benefit the league– in other words, promise heightened TV ratings – the conspiracy theorists come out.

    Of course, they simply ignore every result that doesn't seem to be of greatest benefit to the league.

    Send mail to the Daily Dime

  • Pic Of The Day (Detroit)
    The Pistons have good parts, like Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton, but it's more than the sum of those parts that impresses fans and experts alike.

    Story Time
    Sure it matters who wins. But just as important is what it means.

    As Marc Stein writes, Game 7 will help resolve four big storylines:

    (1) Dwyane Wade's rep: Can he go?

    (2) Shaquille O'Neal's divorce from Kobe Bryant: Will Shaq prove his point?

    (3) The Pistons' legacy: One and done?

    (4) Larry Brown's future: Now or later, Cleveland or Detroit or neither?

    See full story

    Elias Says

    In Dwyane Wade's two seasons with the Heat, the team is 90-48 (.652) when he plays and 11-15 (.423) when he sits out.

    Among individuals who have played at least 100 games and missed at least 20 games over the last two seasons, no team has such a high winning percentage when a particular individual plays and such a low winning percentage when that same player sits out.

    Elias Sports Bureau

    Big Finisher

    Shaquille O'Neal has appeared in three previous Game 7s – all in the conference finals – and his team has won all three.

    1995 East finals
    Orlando 105, Indiana 81
    Shaq: 35 points, 13 rebounds

    2000 West finals
    Los Angeles Lakers 89, Portland 84
    Shaq: 18 points, nine rebounds

    2002 West finals
    Los Angeles Lakers 112, Sacramento 106 (OT)
    Shaq: 35 points, 13 rebounds

    ESPN Research

    Going The Distance
    What has become of the seven-game series?

    In the past 10 years, only six of the 30 conference finals and NBA Finals series have gone the full seven games.

    Statistically, some might expect the rate to be much higher. If we presume the two teams are roughly even, then about 30 percent of the series should be going to the deciding seventh game.

    Instead, only 20 percent have done so, and the rate has been even lower in the past half-decade.

    Part of the answer lies in the fact that the teams were rarely truly even. If we change our assumptions to say the favorite wins 65 percent of the games, then our expected rate of seven-game series drops to 23 percent, which given the small sample is close enough to the real rate of 20 percent in the past decade.

    The 65 percent assumption is fair considering the majority of the conference and NBA finals series in recent seasons have involved teams like the Bulls, Lakers and Spurs that were overwhelming favorites.

    That also explains why the earlier rounds have had more seven-game series – 10 of 40 in the past decade. While the Bulls and Lakers of the world were romping to victory, there were more even matchups (think Kings-Wolves or Kings-Mavs from recent seasons) to make up for it.

    John Hollinger

    Elias Says
    With the Pistons winning at Miami in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals, both visiting teams won Game 1 of the penultimate round of the NBA playoffs for just the fifth time in the league's 59-year history.

    But in none of the four previous instances have both of the Game 1 winners gone on to win the series and thereby advance to the Finals.

    Year Gm. 1/Series winner Gm. 1/Series winner
    2005 DET won at MIA SA won at PHX
    SA won series 4-1
    2003 NJ won at DET
    NJ won series 4-0
    DAL won at SA
    SA won series 4-2
    1981 PHI won at BOS
    BOS won series 4-3
    HOU won at KC
    HOU won series 4-1
    1980 PHI won at BOS
    PHI won series 4-1
    SEA won at LAL
    LAL won series 4-1
    1972 NY won at BOS
    NY won series 4-1
    MIL won at LAL
    LAL won series 4-2
    Elias Sports Bureau

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