Updated: Jan. 13, 2006, 10:48 AM ET

Broom for rent in Detroit

When the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs met Thursday night, we saw the two best teams in the NBA.

Coming in, there was a gap between 1 and 2 after the Pistons' 85-70 win over the defending champs on Christmas. But we saw just how significant the difference between the two is during the Pistons' 83-68 win in San Antonio. If they played a playoff series tomorrow, it would be a sweep.

Detroit (28-5) knew where to attack right away. In that building, the Pistons know that if the Spurs get off to a good start, Tony Parker, especially, then they'll be tough the rest of the way. But they had the perfect strategy to take the air out of the building.

Feed Rasheed.

Tim Duncan has said Sheed gives him problems. It didn't help matters that with the plantar fasciitis Duncan's battling in his right foot, he's not getting much lift.

Wallace came out and took control, scoring Detroit's first three baskets. When you have a team going right at your best player, and succeeding, there's one word for that:


After that, the Pistons soon gained the upper hand. Sheed finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, canning three 3-pointers for good measure.

Despite the gloomy ending for the Spurs, they are capable of beating the Pistons, when at least two of their Big Three (Manu Ginobili, Parker and Duncan) are playing at a high level. But nobody in the power trio scored more than 17 or played particularly well.

Obviously, the Spurs (27-9) aren't clicking. Duncan is not close to 100 percent. They're still working out some things with some rotation, with Ginobili working his way back from the bench. They haven't seen Nazr Mohammed do much yet. They're a work in progress. We haven't seen their best yet.

However, we are seeing the best of Detroit. We're seeing some of the great things coach Flip Saunders has brought to the mix, including emphasis on offensive movement on the weak side, away from the ball.

One of Detroit's clear strong suits in this game was its boardwork. Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace each pulled down a dozen rebounds, leading a 56-32 advantage on the glass. Rip Hamilton had 22 points and Chauncey Billups had 14 assists.

Detroit's trademark balance was in full effect. You can't say you're going to shut down Billups, because the other guys will hurt you. You can say you're going to throw three guys at Kobe Bryant, but you can't try that with the Pistons.

The only pitfall is Detroit's not a real deep team. Antonio McDyess does his thing well, but Carlos Delfino and Carlos Arroyo are up and down. Lindsey Hunter coming back will help.

And don't forget, they have had a remarkable run of good health, which just doesn't happen in NBA.

Tim Legler, an NBA analyst for ESPN and former NBA 3-point champion, is a regular contributor to Insider.

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Dimes Past: January 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6-8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

Night Of The Superstars

Squaring off with a formidible foe in LeBron James, Kobe Bryant hit his last three shots, lifting the Lakers to a 99-98 victory.

Looking Out For No. 1

Gonzaga's Adam Morrison is having a phenomenal season, but there are still plenty of questions about how his game will translate in the pros. Still, given his talent and charisma, it's no longer out of the question that he could be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, especially if a regional team like Portland or Seattle were to get the No. 1 pick.

The dark horse might be Italy's Andrea Bargnani. After getting off to a slow start, he really has turned it on of late against top Euroleague talent. Bargnani scored 20 points, shot 3-for-4 from 3-point territory, and had five rebounds and four steals last week against Strasbourg. It was his third consecutive strong showing in the Euroleague. Foul trouble kept Bargnani from repeating his success this week, but every international NBA scout I've talked to continues to claim that Bargnani is the real deal.

There has been a general backlash against international talent the last two years. However, given the dearth of players with superstar potential at the top, Bargnani has a shot at No. 1.

The full Chad Ford blog Insider

NBA Intelligence Report

Allen Awaits League Penalty
"Ray Allen expressed regret Thursday about his brawl with Orlando's Keyon Dooling that caused his first NBA ejection Wednesday night and perhaps his first league suspension. The Sonics' leading scorer also stressed that he has a breaking point and will defend himself if necessary. Allen, who left KeyArena Wednesday without speaking to the media, spoke with league officials Thursday morning. Allen is hoping his pristine reputation and Dooling's actions will influence the NBA to limit the penalty to a fine. 'A game suspension for me is too much. I don't want to miss playing (tonight against the Miami Heat),' he said."
-- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Bryant's Still One Up On James
"If you've learned anything, you know it's best to keep the expectations low whenever Kobe Bryant and LeBron James square off. Seeing Bryant make it through a game without getting injured would be a nice start. We still haven't seen that, but Thursday night's 99-98 Laker victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers gave us a close game, and a little identity check. When forced to, Bryant can play like James. But when it mattered most, James couldn't duplicate Bryant." -- Los Angeles Times

Read the entire Intelligence Report on ESPN Insider Insider

Motion: Detroit Basketball Triumphant
If the Spurs are to climb the mountain, then this night was the valley ...

Champs hit hard

Rasheed Romp

Rasheed Wallace prepares to deliver another blow to the pride of the defending champs. Detroit beat San Antonio, 83-68.

Extreme Behavior

Thursday's Best
Rasheed Wallace, Pistons forward: Knocked down big shots early, so Spurs didn't hang around late. The techno popper (nine Ts lead the league) is taking (and making) more threes than ever before, sinking 2-for-5 on the average night.


Thursday's Worst
Michael Finley, Spurs swingman -- We see Fin working. Didn't want to open the Pistons' eyes to his game, should they meet in June. So he missed his four shots in 17 minutes. They'll think he's done. Smart. Very Smart.

Quote of the Day

"That team is good enough that you have to play a perfect game and we didn't do that."
-- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, after his defending champs were routed by the Pistons

See how all 54 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Don't Give Up, Indy

Donny, IN: Why is everyone saying that the Pacers season is a lost cause? They've looked pretty good to me lately without Ron Artest.

Chad Ford: I don't understand it. Clearly the Pistons are the best team in the East and will be difficult for any team to beat in a seven-game series if they are healthy. But ... they're one major injury away from being a beatable team. The Pistons have had an incredible track record of staying healthy, but odds say that at some point, one major player on their team is going to get hurt. The Heat are inconsistent. The Nets, Cavs and Bucks are all beatable. I don't think the Pacers are out of the mix, even if they wait until the summer to make an Artest trade. The odds are stacked against them, but there are a number of scenarios where they could still come out of the East.

The full Chad Ford chat Insider

Elias Says

Steve Nash had 20 points, 16 assists and seven rebounds despite playing only 39 minutes in Phoenix's win against Golden State. No other NBA player in the last five seasons reached all three of those statistical levels in a game while playing fewer than 40 minutes. The last to do it was Minnesota's Terrell Brandon on Feb. 23, 2001 (27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes against Golden State).

• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias Insider

Boston Market

There's a decent chance that the Celtics could trade Paul Pierce within the next six weeks. I don't want that to happen because you can always find another head coach, but you can't always find another Paul Pierce. Still, the "Should we trade Paul?" question has been lingering over this team since November, when it became apparent that Pierce was heading for a career season on a subpar team.

Playing his heart out every night, playing the most efficient basketball of his career, Pierce stands out the same way Tom Hanks stood out in late-'80s movies like "The Money Pit" and "Turner and Hooch." Back then, you always felt like Hanks could do better, that he would do better. Same with Pierce.

See Bill Simmons' full column


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