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Pistons 98 - Clippers 80

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Detroit is a good team.

When Rip Hamilton is incapable of missing, they get a little better.

When Chauncey Billups makes his first three pointer in literally a week from 45 feet as the first half buzzer is sounding in a one point game, that gives them a little extra boost as well.

When the refs seem to be under the impression that it is simply bad form to call fouls against the mighty Pistons, well, then you get a game like Sunday in Staples Center.  

Thirteen fouls were called on the Pistons.  Thirteen.  The Clippers were not in the bonus at any point in the game.  Thirteen is six fewer than the Pistons commit per game on average, and fully ten fewer than the Clippers draw on average.

I'm not suggesting that the Clippers would have won this game otherwise.  They wouldn't have.  But it certainly felt like the refs were giving the Pistons a little leg up that they didn't really need.  

MDsr must have felt the same.  During a soul-crushing beginning to the second half, when the Clippers turned the ball over on four of their first six possessions, the refs could easily have cut that number in half.  Chauncey Billups flat clotheslined Jason Hart as he intercepted a pass that became a dunk for Tayshaun Prince.  (Question - think the refs would have let that play go if the All Star were lying on the ground at mid-court after being laid out by the guy who was waived last week?)  A couple possessions later, Corey Maggette ended up in a heap under the Clippers basket after getting tangled with Prince.  Not only was there no call, the ball was awarded to the Pistons.  

This game wasn't on TV, so I have not watched these plays on the TiVo.  There's no question in my mind that the first was a foul.  They showed a replay of the Prince-Maggette play at Staples, and I must say, I couldn't tell what happened.  Did anyone get a better view than me?  At any rate, that's usually a pretty automatic call in the NBA - but not against Tayshaun Prince.  

At that point, suddenly behind by 10 after having a chance to take the lead just before halftime, MDsr had seen enough.  I happened to be looking right at his conversation with Dan Crawford and he must have really chosen his words well to get chased.  He wasn't waving his arms.  He wasn't yelling.  He wasn't acting at all aggressively.  To me, it looked like they were having a nice little chat.  And then he was in the locker room.  I'm thinking MDsr must have called into question both Crawford's ancestry AND his mother.  That'll usually get you an ejection or a headbutt (now a hit single, btw).  

Frankly, I couldn't figure out how the Clippers were even in the game in the first half.  Hamilton was 7 for 7 - he finished 10 for 12, including a desperation turnaround that beat the shot clock buzzer in the fourth that ripped the Clippers' hearts out once and for all after they'd cut the lead to 10.  Chris Webber made his first 4 shots.  Jason Maxiell was a monster, and completely neutralized Elton Brand - Maxiell 4 for 6, Brand 4 for 12 on the game.  So how were the Clippers in position to take the lead at halftime, down one with the ball with 27 seconds left?

The short answer is, I don't know.  I guess that Jason Hart starting 4 for 4 and Corey Maggette starting 4 for 5 had something to do with it.  

The Pistons, with Billups' buzzer beater and the ref-aided (is that an asterisk in the record books, like a wind-aided long-jump?) 12-0 run to start the second half, never relinquished a double digit lead the rest of the game.

A couple other points about this game.

Apparently, it is now once again open-season on Clipper bashing in the MSM.  The AP wire story spends fully five paragraphs devaluing Clipper wins and belittling Clipper losses based on the opposing players who missed the game.  

[Rasheed] Wallace was the latest on a long list of key opponents the Clippers have been able to avoid this season because of injuries, suspensions, day-of-game trades -- and, in the case of Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, sudden leaves of absence.

Shaquille O'Neal missed both of Miami's losses to the Clippers. Sidekick Dwyane Wade sat out one of them as well, the same day assistant coach Ron Rothstein began filling in for Riley. That same day, Miami forwards Antoine Walker and James Posey were deactivated over their failure to meet team body-fat standards.

Both Clippers' wins over Boston came with Paul Pierce sidelined. They also beat Milwaukee without having to face Michael Redd, Chicago with Ben Wallace injured, Dallas with Josh Howard on the bench, and Houston without Tracy McGrady -- a game that became much easier when Yao Ming broke his leg 6 minutes after the opening tip.

Then there was the victory over Golden State on Jan. 17, the same day a blockbuster trade with Indiana left the Warriors with only seven healthy players.

The Clippers also won games in which they dodged Peja Stojakovic, Baron Davis and Steve Francis. On the negative side, Seattle beat them without Ray Allen, San Antonio without Tony Parker, Golden State without Jason Richardson, Utah without Andrei Kirilenko, Houston without McGrady, and Toronto without Chris Bosh.

Now, this is a valid point and one that I myself have made many, many times.  One wonders if the AP stringer has been haunting ClipsNation.  But rarely, if ever, does an AP story spend time on the losing team.  To essentially trash talk for five paragraphs is just bizarre.  Furthermore, let's face it - there have been a LOT of injuries this season.  How many games have Shaq and Wade played together?  TMac and Yao?  You could call into question many wins for each and every team in the league this season, right?  When you make an issue of playing the Peja-less Hornets, you've gone a little too far.  The guy has missed 50 games and played in 13.  It's a little like saying the Clippers got lucky to play the Pacers without Reggie Miller.  When you then list Steve Francis as one of the guys they were lucky enough to avoid, you've lost all credibility at that point.

Meanwhile, the Herald Wire Service story is a standard story, with basically no mention of the Clippers in the body.  The headline writer had some fun though, referring to the Clippers as 'road kill.'  Nice.

And still the Clippers remain in the 8th position in the West.  Can't say as I understand that.