A Daily Babble Production
A simple curl, that's all it was. The oldest way in the book to get a shooter open. That's it. They ran it twice in as many possessions, once on each side of the floor. Because of the Detroit Pistons' attention to detail and execution, that was all needed to ice last night's victory over in Oakland over the Golden State Warriors.
Elaborately contrived offensive sets impress us. Feats of sheer athleticism leave us in awe. But on a level at which the supposed insiders constantly claim that differentials in talent are truly minute, it is so often mastering the nuances of the game that make all the difference.
That the Pistons have spent most of this decade doing exactly that has played an important role in their six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, and those two plays in the waning moments of last night's contest epitomized that to perfection.
The Pistons and Warriors fought an exciting seesaw battle through most of the second half. A missed dunk by Andris Biedrins seemed to wake up the Pistons, who roared back from a double-digit deficit to take a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. Don Nelson had his Warriors bust out a zone defensively throughout the fourth, and by keeping Allen Iverson out of the lane, the Dubs got a few stops and went on a run of their own to retake the lead.
But two huge threes by Rasheed Wallace put Detroit ahead once more and sent the Warriors back into man-to-man trailing by three points with less than two minutes to play. So the Pistons went right to the simple solution: a perfectly angled down screen on the left block for Rip Hamilton, the man who has taken the torch from Reggie Miller as the game's best at moving without the basketball (although Ray Allen is right up there). Just as hoops coaches preach at every level, Hamilton sprinted on as narrow a path as possible right off the hip of his screener, leaving his man trailing him behind the pick. He curled and stopped on a dime right outside the left elbow extended, leaving him just enough time to catch and shoot without being bothered by a late-arriving Warrior. Tayshaun Prince's pass arrived chest-high in its recipient's hands right as the off-guard turned, leading him right into his fluid shooting motion.
Screen. Cut. Curl. Pass. Timing. Shot. Textbook, all of it. Swish. Pistons by five.
One defensive stop later, the Pistons came back to the other end looking for more. Once again, they put on a clinic in getting the so-called 'little' facets of the game right. Down came the screen for Hamilton once more, this time on the right block. But the Warriors knew were wary of Hamilton's jumper this time, so both defenders in the vicinity jumped Hamilton's route around a screening Arron Afflalo to stick with the shooter.
No problem. Afflalo rolled down to the baseline, and Hamilton snapped the ball to him as soon as it arrived in his hands. But it didn't stay with Afflalo long. The extra defender jumping out on Hamilton required another Warrior (Andris Biedrins, if memory serves) to rotate down to Afflalo. The second-year man from UCLA read it perfectly and dropped a quick touch pass to a now-open Rasheed Wallace flashing straight down the lane for an uncontested finish.
Screen. Curl. Roll. Two passes. Cut. Dunk. Textbook. Again. Pistons by seven with just outside one minute to play.
Neither play made the highlights. You won't see those clips on SportsCenter's top ten segments. But they were beautiful examples of precise basketball, which is what winning this game is still all about.
Even when it's done by those pesky fellas from Auburn Hills.