In Game 2, Detroit came with the kind of playoff intensity and execution one should expect from a team of the Pistons' stature. Defensively, the Pistons swarmed the Sixers, contesting everything, trapping ball handlers, rotating quickly and giving the playoff-worthy effort that was lacking in Game 1.
Detroit was especially strong defending ball screens for Andre Miller -- something the Pistons struggled with in Game 1 when they got hung up on screens and had poor communication, allowing Miller to get to the basket on the dribble.
In Game 2 there was consistent defense on this action, with Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess stepping out to flatten Miller's move and prevent the drive, while Miller's defender came under the screen to prevent the split. Miller's inability to shoot the 3 off this screen makes this an easy cover for the Pistons if they are consistent. Don't expect the Pistons to deviate from this strategy in Game 3.
Once again, Tayshaun Prince frustrated Andre Iguodala with his length. Iguodala can't hold the ball, stare Prince down and expect to create a high-percentage shot. He must catch and go right away -- no jabs, no shot fakes, no hesitation. A quick spin move in the post or an immediate attack off the dribble on the perimeter catch is his best weapon. The degree of difficulty for him to score grows exponentially the longer he holds the ball.
The Pistons were also able to match Philly's hustle with effort plays of their own, and this eliminated some of the easy offensive rebounds and transition baskets the Sixers got in Game 1. But this is still an area Philly must continue to emphasize, as Detroit may once again hit the snooze button for periods of Game 3. Philly must maintain its aggressiveness to get those six- and eight-point bursts when the Pistons try to coast.
The Sixers should accent their youth and athleticism, which means run, run and run some more. They should run after misses and after makes, and try to speed up the game and make it as sloppy as possible. In a sense, chaos is better for them than precision, because the Pistons have a big edge in being precise.
But perfect technical execution with less than a full, consistent effort is not good enough to win in the playoffs. Don't believe for a minute that the Pistons have "learned their lesson" from Game 1. Learning lessons means not repeating destructive behavior, and the Pistons have been "learning" this lesson for the past four years.
Although the Pistons were better in their transition defense, they will break down the more they are put to the test. Easy baskets can come late in the game for the Sixers if they keep the pace faster throughout the first three quarters. The faster pace also will create more opportunities for offensive rebound baskets for Reggie Evans.
As for Detroit's offense, the Pistons relied a little too much on Wallace and Chauncey Billups in Game 1. In Game 2, Billups made sure he was more democratic in his distribution, making sure all his teammates got shots early. Wallace scored in the post and stepped out to hit 3s, Rip Hamilton made shots off screens and Prince was able to post and create. In addition, McDyess hit midrange jump shots, and Billups did not even look to score, so Philly couldn't zero in on any one player. It was classic Detroit offense.
But look for the Sixers to focus most of their attention in Game 3 on Wallace, who the Pistons freely admit is the key to their team. Look for them to trap him in the post and make him give up the ball, limiting his shots on the block. If Rasheed gets frustrated, that frustration tends to spread to the rest of the Pistons.
On the high ball screen, the Sixers will take their chances with Billups on the drive and get back to Wallace quickly to prevent the long, momentum changing 3s that ignite the Pistons.
If Wallace cannot get on track, look for Detroit to go to Prince and his backdown post game, which is a tough cover for Willie Green.
The Sixers will come out energized, and with the series tied 1-1, expect Philadelphia fans to welcome home Wallace with elevated enthusiasm. The Pistons are treading in dangerous waters if they allow themselves any letdowns in this game. However, knowledge of that has never stopped them before.
PREDICTION: Pistons win Game 3
Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves an NBA Analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.