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In the Sixers' wins in Game 1 and Game 3, they came out in the third quarter with great defensive effort and perfect offensive execution, which got them back in the game in Game 1 and extended their lead in Game 3.
In the third quarter of Game 4, the Pistons came out aggressively, defending the ball hard, contesting and rebounding, and it fueled their offense as they went from down 10 at the half to up six in less than seven minutes of the third quarter.
As woeful as their offense has been at times in this series, the Pistons' defense is what makes this team. When they come out and defend consistently, their offense usually follows suit.
Now that this has become a best-of-three series, look for the Pistons to bring that same defensive effort in Game 5, which will put a premium on Philadelphia's ability to execute in the half court (this means getting Andre Iguodala back into the offensive mix).
The Sixers' leading scorer has averaged only 10.5 points per game in this series, down from 19.9 during the season, and he is shooting only 22 percent from the floor. He has been pressured by Tayshaun Prince and bothered by Prince's length.
Iguodala has had short stretches of success offensively when he has attacked early on his catch. Whether he catches and drives immediately, or goes right into a jab series, he has had the most success.
He must also look to get to the offensive boards, running to the front of the rim from the wing. He has missed some opportunities to do this in Philly's losses in Games 2 and 4, and if he is struggling offensively, this is a way for him to use his athleticism and make plays.
In Game 5, also look for Andre Miller to post up more and work his midrange game, and for Samuel Dalembert to continue to step out to shoot his short jump shot. The Sixers will also need the energy of Thaddeus Young and Reggie Evans on the offensive glass. Willie Green has been effective in the Sixers' offensive sets. They will need all of these for offensive success in Game 5.
Because the Sixers shoot the 3 so poorly, their half-court offense doesn't have the ability to stretch the defense. So this puts that much more importance on Philly's ability to run and get easy baskets. They have more quickness and athleticism than the Pistons, so look for the Sixers to push the pace even faster in Game 5 -- running after misses and made baskets.
Defensively, the Sixers have given the Pistons fits with their denial defense and anticipation -- getting tips, deflections and steals with their great effort. They have bothered Chauncey Billups, who has uncharacteristically turned the ball over and shot a miserable 29 percent from the field. Although he is shooting only 4-of-19 from 3 in this series, he did hit a big 3 in the third quarter in the middle of the Pistons' run.
Look for Philly in Game 5 to bring as much pressure on Billups as possible, alternating defenders and forcing him to drive more and make decisions on the move. He has dribbled himself into trouble deep in the paint at times in this series, and forcing him to be more aggressive off the dribble takes away from Detroit's half-court precision and execution.
The Sixers took Rasheed Wallace completely out of Game 3, then lost track of him on the perimeter in Game 4 -- when he hit three big 3-pointers in the Pistons' third-quarter run. That can't happen in Game 5 if Philly expects to win. As we have said before in our reports -- the Pistons go as Rasheed goes. The Sixers must tag Wallace with the closest defender anytime he spots up outside the arc.
Look for the Pistons to continue their screen-and-roll action with Billups and Wallace, feeding Richard Hamilton cutting off of multiple screens, and for Prince posting and cutting off the pinch-post action off the elbow. Prince has quietly been the most consistent player for Detroit at both ends of the floor in this series.
With the Sixers knowing they could close out at home in Game 6 if they win Game 5, and the Pistons knowing they could be playing their last home game of the year, look for this to be the best game of the series.
PREDICTION: Pistons win Game 5
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.