[Note: Check out the piece I wrote for DetroitBadBoys.com today. And check out their blog in general, it's one of the best out there.]
The Bulls should be feeling good after three straight wins since the all-star break, with two of those being against potential playoff foes in Cleveland and Washington. And while I wouldn't go so far as to say the Bulls have a rivalry against them, I can confidently say that I personally (and irrationally) hate them, and really, that's enough to get me excited.
And another such team will be the Bulls foe on Sunday: the Detroit Pistons. The media-anointed (and Pax anointed, for that matter) favorite in the East.
I have to admit I've been proved wrong by the Webber acquisition, at least so far. He still only has one leg and can't defend, but Detroit was a perfect situation for such a 'type' of player, as they are the slowest paced team in the league, and also play a lot of zone defense which likely helps mask Webber on that end.
But the big difference between being 'completely done' and actually helping the Pistons is that Webber has increased his shooting percentage from an abysmal 38.7% as a Sixer to 56.3% in his time with the Pistons. He's also getting to the line more (although shooting even worse than in Philly, at 63%). What's the possible reason for this dramatic change? These 18 games in Detroit are far and away above even his career bests, so lets assume there's a bit of an anomaly going on. But it's also likely that he's benefiting from simply playing with better players (and a better coach) than he was in Philadelphia.
But as much as the Bulls may have potentially missed out by not going after a post scorer, the Pistons similarly sat on their hands over the deadline and failed to address their needs, namely backcourt depth. Beyond Billups and Hamilton, the Pistons rely heavily on the aging Lindsey Hunter and the just plain bad Flip Murray. Counter that to their frontcourt bench of Mohammed, Maxiell, McDyess, and Dale Davis, and the supposedly easy-to-make big-for-small deal could've been swung by the Pistons, but they elected not to. Like earlier in the season, an injury to Billups pretty much makes them toast, but even being healthy having no backcourt depth may hurt them in the playoffs.
So for this game, the story will be Ben Wallace coming back to Detroit. But it's really about who's the best in the East. The Bulls have already beaten two of the major players, it's time to take out the 'best'. I'd look to see how the pace of this game is going...the Bulls will have an advantage if they use their speed to cause turnovers and run at the Pistons. They can use Wallace and Thomas to out-work the stiffer Pistons' big men. Allowing the Pistons to slow the game down and trying to match up with their own bigger, slower players might just be playing into their hands.