Keys in Game 5
Detroit: The aggressive, scrappy defense and balanced, unselfish offense wore Indiana down for the second consecutive game. All five starters contributed in double figures, making it impossible for the Pacers to key defensively on one Piston. Richard Hamilton continued to curl tight off Ben and Rasheed Wallace's pin-down screens, creating shots for himself and everyone else. Carlos Arroyo and Antonio McDyess came off the bench in the second quarter and helped break open a close game with a 15-2 spurt to close the half. Arroyo had four assists and pushed the ball at every opportunity like he did in Game 1 of the Philadelphia series. McDyess contributed eight points in the period. With the 15-0 spurt to open the second half, I don't know when I've seen Detroit play better this season, outscoring Indiana by 21 in the middle two quarters. They only gave Indiana one shot at the basket, screening out anyone who came close to grabbing an offensive rebound. Ben Wallace finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Tayshaun Prince added 16 and 12. The Pistons dominated in almost every category en route to the decisive victory.
Indiana: The drought at the end of the first half and start of the second half, which lasted 10 minutes, 39 seconds, did them in. The Pacers had no field goals during that period and were outscored 30-4 after the score was tied. They lacked the quickness in getting the hustle points and offensive rebounds, and simply ran out of gas. The four timeouts called by coach Rick Carlisle in the third quarter didn't help either. Indiana had no timeouts left in the fourth, resulting in a "T" later in the game when it was time for Indiana's mandatory timeout at the 2:59 mark of the fourth. This was the third single-digit scoring night for Reggie Miller (eight points). His shooting in the series is at 38 percent and 20.8 percent from 3-point range, going 2-for-17 in his last three games beyond the arc. The entire team has struggled to score in the half-court. Indiana got only 65 shot attempts, making only 24, and shot 3-for-15 from 3. The only advantage the Pacers had was at the free-throw line, but I don't think the NBA will just let them line up and determine the winner from the stripe. Offensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, fast-break points, steals, points off turnovers and second-chance points all went to the Pistons. Doubling the bench points 30-15 just isn't enough.
Adjustments for Game 6
Detroit: Detroit has manhandled the Pacers in almost every phase the last two games. But they know going into Game 6 that this particular game in Indiana will be extremely hard to close out, so a supreme effort, like in Games 4 and 5, is needed. Indiana fans will blame Detroit's players for the brawl on Nov. 19, ending their season and Miller's career all in one. So this crowd will be hostile for sure. The continued diving for loose balls, getting those important second-chance points and having the fresher legs may be enough to push their record to 8-0 in close-out games since 2003. But to do so, they need to tighten that noose they have around Indiana's neck defensively. They only allowed four fast-break points in Game 5. If Detroit duplicates this again, the Pacers can't win. I say this after every game, that if Detroit plays the way they are capable of, with the relentless defense and the balanced offensive, they are hard to beat. Chauncey Billups has quietly been the MVP of a series again. He is leading the series in scoring and assists, averaging 17.8 and seven, respectively.