|Detroit needs an engine overhaul|
By Charley Rosen
Page 2 columnist
If the Nets won Game 1 on their last possession, the Pistons lost Game 2 (and most likely the entire series) at the opening tipoff, when Rick Carlisle sat Michael Curry and plugged Tayshaun Prince, a mere rookie, into Detroit's starting line-up.
The move was made to theoretically boost the Pistons' offense, but Prince wound up shooting 2-5 in 25 minutes and contributed six measly points. A bad gamble? Yes.
But the move by Carlisle also sent the following message to his players: What got them to the Eastern Conference finals was not good enough to take the team to the next level.
By disregarding the fact that Curry is one of the Pistons' most positive locker room presences, Carlisle also undermined the team's primary strength -- its overall chemistry. Curry was double-dissed when he was denied any daylight whatsoever.
The pressure made Carlisle blink again in the closing minutes of the game when he repeatedly called Corliss Williamson's number in the clutch. This was the same guy that Carlisle kept bench-bound for most of the Philadelphia series -- the reason being that, except for Keith Van Horn-less, there was nobody Williamson could be trusted to guard, and also because Carlisle felt that Williamson had developed a bad case of sticky fingers and was reluctant to pass the ball.
Before being called upon to rescue the Pistons' at the end of Game 2, Williamson had been distracted by trying to prove to young Kenyon Martin that he remained the nastiest player in captivity. Meanwhile, Martin was beating the veteran up, down and sideways. No surprise, then, when Williamson shot an airball with the game on the line.
What, if anything, can the Pistons do, not only to avert being swept, but to win the series?
The Nets' advantages are their superior athleticism, their underrated defense (particularly their quick hands in the middle), and their explosive fast breaks, which can score points in bunches. The underrated Nets have already made a mediocre team (Boston) look horrible, and are in the process of making a good team (Detroit) stumble and bumble.
Moreover, the Nets' primary go-to player is Jason Kidd, who proves that it's not how many points a player scores that counts, but when he scores them. At the same time, Kenyon Martin has also evolved into a force in the end-game, not only capable of creating his own shots but of converting clutch free throws.
The moral here is that team chemistry is not enough to win championships. When the game clock is ticking down and the score is tight, the responsibility for taking the do-or-die shots cannot be delegated to a committee. Indeed, championship teams must have one dependable horse which they can ride across the finish line.
In Game 1, Kidd's last-gasp shot proved to be the winner. In Game 2, Kidd won the game by stopping Billups at the buzzer. A two-way go-to guy a la Michael Jordan, J-Kidd is the Nets' ultimate advantage.
Even though Detroit hasn't been beaten just yet, their end is nigh, because J-Kidd is a winner who will refuse to lose.
Charley Rosen, a former coach in the Continental Basketball Association, has been intimately involved with basketball for the better part of five decades -- as a writer, a player, a coach and a passionate fan. Rosen's books include "More Than a Game," "The Cockroach Basketball League," "The Wizard of Odds: How Jack Molinas Almost Destroyed the Game of Basketball," "Scandals of '51: How the Gamblers Almost Killed College Basketball" and "The House of Moses All-Stars: A Novel."