Updated: July 10, 2008, 11:40 AM ET

East finals: Detroit vs. Miami

Prediction: Detroit 4, Miami 2
The Heat need a full-strength Shaq to neutralize the best starting lineup in the world. While Miami couldn't have asked for more than two sweeps and a full week of rest, the East's top seed still won't have that Shaq in this series.

So you have to favor the defending champs to get back to the Finals, especially after the Pistons finished off their most bitter rivals in a Game 6 at Indy when it so easily could have gone the distance.

Detroit clearly doesn't have the bench it had this time last year, but it can claim playoff sharpness. The Pistons still have two Wallaces to make Shaq work in one-on-one coverage. Which means Dwyane Wade will have to work much harder for his points than he did against the Nets and Wiz.
Marc Stein

Prediction: Miami 4, Detroit 3
Can Miami beat the Pistons with Shaq at around 75 percent?

It says here they can, for a few reasons.

First, the Heat are much more potent offensively than the Pistons, with or without Shaq.

Second, Miami's defense has stepped it up a notch in the playoffs, thanks to the rejuvenation of Alonzo Mourning.

Finally, there is the all-important home-court advantage.

I expect this series to come down to a seventh game, and playing that game in Miami will provide the difference.
John Hollinger

Prediction: Detroit 4, Miami 2
The Pistons have the formula to give the Heat a hard time -- good size, great defense. But Shaq is obviously the key. The series revolves around what Shaq is able to do.
Greg Anthony

Prediction: Miami 4, Detroit 3
I have four questions. First, is Shaq healthy or not? (They need a 22-11 from him to win the series. Anything less and they lose.) Second, who guards Rip Hamilton in this series? (If you put Wade on him and ask Wade to bring the ball up, he'll be dead by Game 4. If you put Eddie Jones on him, then there's a size mismatch with Wade guarding Tayshaun Prince -- although that might not be a bad thing because Detroit could get out of its offense trying to feed the ball to Tayshaun.) Third, can Wade control these games (like he did against Washington and New Jersey) against superior defensive players like Prince and the Wallaces? And fourth, can Detroit beat a quality team like the Heat when they're still stuck in that "We don't play hard every game, only when we have something to prove" mentality?

Before the playoffs, I picked the Pistons ... but I hadn't seen enough of Miami and didn't realize how good their bench was. Maybe they don't look good on paper, but they play well together, and that's all that matters. Now I'm thinking they can wear down Detroit over seven games (remember, the Pistons are playing their starters 40 minutes a game) and win a Game 7 because they have the best player on the court. And if that's not enough, it just feels like this spring is Wade's coming-out party, doesn't it?
Bill Simmons | Sports Guy on East and West finals

Prediction: Detroit 4, Miami 3
We might as well be calling this one a 2004 Finals rematch. The Pistons are basically the same team that trumped the Lakers in five games last year. The only real additions are a much improved Tayshaun Prince and better sixth man off the bench in Antonio McDyess.

The Heat are essentially the same team the Lakers were last year. Shaq and Dwyane Wade are the best one-two combo since ... Shaq and Kobe. Everyone else on both last year's Lakers and this year's Heat are really just in orbit around those two.

So I don't think it's a stretch to see the Pistons coming out of the East again this year, especially when Shaq is still a major question mark for this series.
Chad Ford

Prediction: Detroit
Ultimately, Detroit wins it all. Even Shaq at 100 percent is not enough to handle Detroit when the Pistons are playing basketball. We saw that last year in the Finals.
Scoop Jackson

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: May 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

Bench Judgment
Brown's shot at a second ring depends on how much he can squeeze out of his starting five.

Question: Why is Pistons coach Larry Brown so unwilling to rely on his bench this postseason?

Answer: Last postseason, even when players like Mike James and Elden Campbell were struggling to score, they made important contributions defensively. But with Carlos Arroyo struggling on D and Lindsey Hunter and Campbell a year older, Brown has had to turn to a different strategy: avoiding the reserves entirely.

Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are each averaging 43 minutes per game in the postseason, and the numbers would be worse if not for several Detroit blowouts in the first two rounds.

Against Miami, however, it's unlikely the Pistons will have the luxury of resting their starters in garbage time. Thus, Brown faces a quandary. He's forced to choose between running his starting five into the ground, or turning to a bench unit that, after Antonio McDyess, has been absolutely awful at both ends of the floor.

Thus, while the headline for Game 1 is Shaq's health, Detroit's bench could be just as telling. If the second unit doesn't show vast improvement, it could derail the Pistons' title defense regardless of what Shaq does.

John Hollinger

Scouting Pistons-Heat
Ten keys to look for, from ESPN Insider's NBA scout, Brian James:

1. Detroit has better defensive guards than Miami, even though Dwyane Wade is ferocious at both ends.

2. Wade, though, fouled out of two of the three games played between the teams because Detroit will make him work at both ends.


3. Miami relies on points in the paint. But Detroit is an excellent defensive rebounding team and will limit Miami's inside opportunities with their length.

4. Detroit had success against Shaq in last year's Finals when Detroit beat the Lakers in five games.

5. This series is the reason Pistons GM Joe Dumars reacquired Elden Campbell from New Jersey. Elden had some very productive minutes at both ends. He gives the Pistons four big bodies instead of the three they have been playing.

6. Detroit will try to take away the Heat's transition offense and will stay locked into Damon Jones so he won't get open looks, just as they shadowed Kyle Korver in the Philly series.

7. The Pistons have gears. When they lost two consecutive games to Indiana, you saw the real Pistons wake up and perform.

8. The backcourt matchups between Damon Jones-Wade and Billups-Hamilton will be great to watch.

9. You can put Eddie Jones vs. Prince in the same category.

10. Detroit knows that Game 1 is there for the taking due to Shaq's mobility and that Miami hasn't played since May 14.

Daily Dime Mailbag
Everyone agrees Wade can ball. Not everyone is buying all the hype, however.

Our special edition of the Daily Dime on Dwyane Wade elicited hundreds of responses from all over the world and across the spectrum of attitudes.

Here's a sampling:

Alf (Dubai): For those who have played the game they love, Wade is the perfect example of what we all dream to be. We put in a lot of hours in the field or in the court to be at the top and challenge all those that we always wanted to compete against. We always say to ourselves that when we get there we will be different from them, that we would be humble and be a positive influence to the others on our team. He is the perfect example of how great players should carry themselves.

Micah (Rochester, NY): Shaq calls Dwyane Wade "Flash," but I think a more appropriate nickname might be "Atlas," as he seems to be carrying the world on his shoulders.

Tracey (Los Angeles): I am a huge fan of Dwyane Wade and consider him as one of the best guards in the NBA. However, why does no one ever get on Wade for being extremely turnover-prone? He's averaging five-plus turnovers per game this postseason (six-plus in series vs. Washington). That is way too many, and could hurt the Heat against the defensive-minded Pistons, as those games should be low-scoring and close down the stretch. A turnover or two in the fourth quarter could cost Miami a game.


Tom Hall (Mullica Hill, NJ): Don't overpraise the man -- his team has only won two playoff series so far. Is he playing well? Yes. Is he one of the best players in the NBA? Yes. Is he Michael Jordan? Not yet. Michael Jordan became Michael Jordan when he finally won his first NBA championship. More impressively, he remained Michael Jordan for two more seasons. Even more impressively, he left basketball and then came back and redefined who Michael Jordan was for three more seasons. Does Wade have potential? Certainly. But don't call him something he has not yet become.

Pic Of The Day
Can Shaq do this on his injured thigh? Will Tayshaun stay aggressive? Just two of the questions that make this series tough to call.

East Sked

This series starts with the Big Question: Can Shaq go?

So far the Heat's playoff schedule has been ideal for a 7-1, 300-something center who needs to heal. Miami's played only eight games in a month, and Shaq's sat for two of them. In fact, Shaq's health problems mean that he's been the Heat's leading scorer in only three games since April 2.

Even more rest for Shaq is built into the first week of the East finals schedule: After Games 1 and 2 (Monday and Wednesday), the series takes three days off before Sunday's Game 3. The R & R should do the Pistons' starting five some good too, given their tendency to play 40-plus minutes every game.

East Conference finals schedule:

Game 1: Monday, May 23
Detroit at Miami, 8 ET, TNT

Game 2: Wednesday, May 25
Detroit at Miami, 8 ET, TNT

Game 3: Sunday, May 29
Miami at Detroit, 8 ET, TNT

Game 4: Tuesday, May 31
Miami at Detroit, 8 ET, TNT

Game 5: Thursday, June 2
Detroit at Miami, 8 ET, TNT

Game 6: Saturday, June 4
Miami at Detroit, 8 ET, TNT

Game 7: Monday, June 6
Detroit at Miami, 8 ET, TNT

Best Of 3?
A quick recap of the three Pistons-Heat showdowns this season:


Pistons 78, Heat 77 (November 26, at Detroit)

  • Pistons win on Richard Hamilton jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining
  • Hamilton: 24 points, seven rebounds
  • Shaquille O'Neal: 24 points, 17 rebounds, eight turnovers

    Heat 89, Pistons 78 (Dec. 30, at Detroit)

  • The Heat outscore the Pistons 22-9 in fourth, including 13-2 in the final five minutes, while Detroit shoots 3-for-22
  • Dwyane Wade gets his first career triple-double: 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists
  • With the win, the Heat capped a 14-1 month

    Pistons 80, Heat 72 (April 10, at Miami)

  • O'Neal did not play
  • Wade fouled out with five points on 1-for-6 shooting

    Dwyane Wade vs. the Pistons this season:

  • 17.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.7 APG
  • Fouled out in 2 of the 3 games
  • Had only career triple-double in Dec. 30 game

  • Chattin' With Udonis
    Gallo (Miami): What up U! My question is, since you went to Miami High and the University of Florida, and then journeyed around, are you still in a state of "Man, I can't believe I play for the Heat"?


    Udonis Haslem: Yeah, sometimes it hits me that two years ago I was overseas and this has all happened so fast in Miami. I'm just happy to ride the wave.

    Simone (Tampa): What type of music do you listen to?

    Udonis Haslem: I listen to mostly southern rap. Represent the south!

    Travis (San Diego): If you weren't playing basketball what kind of career would you have?

    Udonis Haslem : That's a very good question. If I wasn't a professional basketball player, I'd probably want to be a cook.

    See chat transcript

    Nation Speaks
    We asked SportsNation for its take on the East finals, and about 30,000 fans responded. Like the experts, they see a tight series that depends on the Big Thigh.

    Does the outcome of the series hinge on Shaq's health?
    63.9% Yes
    36.1% No

    With the clock winding down and Miami down one, which would you rather have on your side?
    63.7% Dwyane Wade's offense
    36.3% Tayshaun Prince's defense

    Who has the edge on the perimeter?
    63.2% Detroit: Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton
    36.8% Miami: Dwyane Wade, Damon Jones, Eddie Jones


    Who has the edge down low?
    55.0% Detroit: Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace
    45.0% Miami: Shaquille O'Neal, Udonis Haslem

    Who wins the series?
    32.1% Detroit wins 4-2
    20.3% Miami wins 4-2
    20.2% Detroit wins 4-3
    18.5% Miami wins 4-3
    3.6% Miami wins 4-1
    2.8% Detroit wins 4-1
    1.7% Miami wins 4-0
    0.9% Detroit wins 4-0
    Vote | SportsNation playoff index

    Flash Animation
    Dwyane Wade may not even be the biggest star on his own team (yet), but he can claim another distinction that registers for a generation of gamers. He's the cover athlete and spokesman for EA Sports' NBA Live 06, which hits stores this fall.

    The NBA Live roster:

    1997: Mitch Richmond
    1998: Tim Hardaway
    1999: Antoine Walker
    2000: Tim Duncan
    2001: Kevin Garnett
    2002: Steve Francis
    2003: Jason Kidd
    2004: Vince Carter
    2005: Carmelo Anthony
    2006: Dwyane Wade



    Search Arrow