Hard to predict Pistons mind-set

April 28, 2008 9:11:20 PM PDT
The Detroit Pistons see it and feel it. When the Pistons are down in the playoffs or hearing from their doubters, they're at their best.

When a series is even or they're ahead and outsiders rave about them, they're at their worst.

Can't the Pistons just trick themselves into creating a sense of urgency?

"That's something that has been happening since I've been here," Rasheed Wallace said Monday. "It's a good question. I don't think I have an answer."

The second-seeded team in the Eastern Conference has trailed the Philadelphia 76ers twice in their first-round series and responded to each deficit with a lopsided win.

After losing Games 1 and 3, Detroit is determined to take its first lead in the series Tuesday night when it hosts Game 5.

Which Pistons team will be on display in the pivotal game?

"I'm not a fortune teller," Wallace said. "We'll see."

Detroit coach Flip Saunders said the team has to tweak its mind-set.

"We have to have the mentality of being the underdog even when we're the favorite," Saunders said.

The Pistons have been saying that for years with mixed results.

With three current starters playing key roles, they've trailed in a series for the 10th time dating to the 2003 playoffs, when they dug their first of many holes by falling behind the Orlando Magic 3-1.

Detroit has advanced five times and been eliminated four times after facing a deficit at some point in the postseason.

"It's a three-game series and we've got two at home. That's an advantage," Detroit's Chauncey Billups said. "I think another advantage we have is we're starting to figure them out finally."

The Sixers are still searching for answers in the matchup of small forwards.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala is averaging just 10.5 points - after averaging a team-high 20 in the regular season - on 22-percent shooting and has missed all nine of his 3-pointers.

He made only one of his last 11 shots and misfired on several wild attempts in Detroit's 93-84 series-evening win Sunday.

"This is a basketball team. This is not just about Andre Iguodala," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "We've won and got to this position because of us as a basketball team - not just relying him to score 25 or 30 points."

Tayshaun Prince's defense, which has helped Detroit reach the past five conference finals, has been credited with slowing down Iguodala, but he hasn't done it alone.

"Whenever I get by (Prince), there's always a big stepping up," he said. "They do a good job of drawing charges. Sheed is always there."

Prince is making Iguodala work hard at the other end of the court, too. He is averaging 17.3 points, making 66 percent of his shots, to trail only Richard Hamilton in scoring.

"I think that's a challenge Tay takes personally," Wallace said.

Prince has often played a supporting role for the Pistons since going from bench-warmer to a surprise stopper, who shut down Tracy McGrady to help them rally against the Magic five years ago in the first round.

Wallace, Billups or Hamilton usually lead the way offensively and Prince follows.

Saunders is ready for the pattern to change.

"As I told Tay prior to these playoffs, it was time for him to step out their shadow," he said. "He has a tendency to defer a lot. His mentality is changing."

Iguodala doesn't want the Sixers' mind-set to change as doubts grow about their ability to pull off a stunning upset over Detroit in the series.

"We've still got to stay positive," he said. "We're still further ahead than what people thought we would be.

"We're playing to win. We can't get caught up in what's being said and what's going on outside of our team. We've got to keep believing."