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East forecast: Piston experience vs. Heat home court

Our writers prognosticate Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals:

Game 7 winner: Detroit
I'm never going to change a prediction after a series has started.

So I stick with the Detroit Pistons winning the East finals, even though history reminds me that the home team wins Game 7 in the playoffs 82 percent of the time.

Not that it takes too much arm-twisting to get me to re-endorse the Pistons, no matter what history says. As maddening as they've been all season, with their intermittent intensity and their conflicted coach, I can't see the defending champs melting down again against the banged-up hosts.

I believe the Miami Heat have to either get one of Shaquille O'Neal's old wrecking-ball games or a heroic comeback from Dwyane Wade to knock the champs out, and I struggle to believe Shaq or D-Wade is physically up to that level of heroism.

– Marc Stein, ESPN.com


Game 7 winner: Detroit
The Pistons, collectively, have been here before.

They know how to prepare for, and function in, a Game 7 atmosphere. The tempo naturally will be slower, for both sides will try to limit their mistakes, which is to Detroit's liking.

All that, combined with neither Wade nor Shaq being 100 percent, will be enough to overcome the home-court advantage. Detroit wins.

– Ric Bucher, ESPN The Magazine


Game 7 winner: Miami
Miami wins because Shaquille O'Neal is on a mission.

He said he would be devastated if he doesn't win the title this year. Devastated.

When the most dominant player since Jordan says that, you don't bet against him, at least in the conference finals. Shaq was embarrassed by his Game 4 stinker and it showed in Game 5. It'll show again in Game 7.

Plus, Dwyane Wade will be back. Sore and hurting, but back nonetheless.

Look for Shaq and Flash to put pressure on Detroit's defense and for Damon Jones, Eddie Jones and Rasual Butler to be on target from behind the arc.

– Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine


Game 7 winner: Detroit
There are several mysteries as we head into Game 7:

  • Dwyane Wade's health. Will the strained rib cage heal enough to allow him to be what he's been – in a word, special – throughout the playoffs?

  • Shaq's stamina. He was much better in Game 6, but the quick, 48-hour turnaround could impact him. With that thigh injury, he's been far from his usual self in this series.

  • The defending champs. At times during these playoffs the Pistons have looked like anything but. Will they show poise on the road in a Game 7? Their emotional stability has been an issue throughout the playoffs.

    No doubt the home team has a huge advantage in a Game 7, but I'm going to go with experience. These Pistons know what's at stake and what it takes to win under adversity. I'm going to stick with the Pistons, as poorly as they've played at times.

    Either way, Game 7 of the conference finals is all you can ask for.

    – Greg Anthony, ESPN Insider


    Game 7 winner: Miami
    The Miami Heat will advance to the NBA Finals because they have the two most dominant players in the series.

    The decision to hold Dwayne Wade out of Game 6 will prove to be the wisest decision of the season for the Heat. A healthier Wade along with Shaquille O'Neal playing at home should propel Miami to the Finals.

    The Pistons will not give up the trophy without a serious fight, but the Heat were the best team in the Eastern Conference for a reason.

    – Tim Legler, ESPN Insider


    Game 7 winner: Detroit
    The Pistons are at their best when pushed against the wall. They've been there and proven they can win big games.

    When it has to be, their defense is a little tighter. Chauncey Billups is more patient. Ben Wallace is more active. Rasheed Wallace is more assertive.

    I expect nothing less in Game 7 from Detroit, with or without a healthy Dwyane Wade.

    – Chad Ford, ESPN Insider


    Game 7 winner: Miami
    Considering I picked the Heat to win in seven before this all started, I see no reason to change my forecast now.

    Obviously, Dwyane Wade's injury is a huge negative for Miami. But the positive sign for the Heat is that it looks like Shaquille O'Neal slowly is regaining his superhuman powers.

    If Shaq plays as well in Game 7 as he did in Game 6 and Wade is a reasonable facsimile of his awesome self, Miami will head to its first-ever NBA Finals.

    – John Hollinger, ESPN Insider


    Game 7 winner: Detroit
    Sorry Miami Heat, the Detroit Pistons will make it back to the NBA Finals.

    Whether Heat star guard Dwyane Wade will play or how much he can do if he is available is a major question. And with a right thigh injury, Heat center Shaquille O'Neal will be playing his third game in five days.

    Expect the champions to show the heart of a champion on the road. The Pistons play their best basketball with their backs against the wall.

    – Marc J. Spears


    Game 7 winner: Detroit
    Pistons by double figures.

    And it's not so much about D-Wade's rib injury as you might think.

    This game is all about the Pistons' experience, which will finally pay off. Detroit is more focused and hungry than they've been all season. They will absolutely refuse to give in.

    They proved they are head and shoulders above the Heat in Game 6. The result would have been the same with Wade out there.

    The Heat think they can win. The Pistons know they will.

    – Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine


    Game 7 winner: Detroit
    I believe Detroit is going to break through and finally win back-to-back games in this series and take Game 7.

    If Dwyane Wade does play, just how effective can he be physically? The Heat showed in Game 6 that they have a hard time without a player like Wade who can create his own shot or one for his teammates.

    In fact, every starter for Miami is banged up.

    Detroit's defensive pressure up the floor harassed Miami's point guards in Game 6, and this will continue.

    Bottom line: The Pistons play well when they need to.

    – Brian James, ESPN Insider