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Pistons make Eastern race a one-team affair

Posted: Monday January 30, 2006 3:10PM; Updated: Monday January 30, 2006 4:06PM
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Chauncey Billups ' steady leadership and his clutch shot-making have sparked discussion of an MVP award for Detroit's point guard.
Chauncey Billups ' steady leadership and his clutch shot-making have sparked discussion of an MVP award for Detroit's point guard.
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With Cleveland in the midst of a five-game winning streak, Peja Stojakovic in Indiana, and Riles in charge down in Miami, I'm barely ready to cede the Eastern Conference over to Detroit. ...

Now that I've thought about it a bit, I'm totally ready to cede the Eastern Conference over to Detroit.

Champs

• At this point, you're not going to get anywhere trying to describe Detroit's place among the all-time greats. It's a disservice to the team, the greats and basic cable TV in general. The team is so disturbingly efficient, reminding us so little of the flashier champs from years past (even last year's sometimes-snoozing Spurs), that you're better off using some hackneyed comparison to Henry Ford's unceasing assembly line. Working in time with men and machinery churning, Detroit has hit its target at a success rate of 88.1 percent. That's, uh, a 37-5 record.

The Pistons have won 13 of 14 in 2006 -- falling only to the Jazz by four -- while beating teams by an average of 12.4 points per game. They've improved considerably on defense in the New Year, holding teams to 88.5 points per game after yielding 92 per game over the first two months of the season, and have shored up their rebounding. Their offense has remained brilliant, averaging 99.9 points and 24.5 assists per game, the fifth- and second-best marks, respectively, in the NBA. But those numbers don't do justice to just how explosive the Pistons' offense has been.

Detroit scores 115.6 points for every 100 of their possessions, a mark that puts them way out in front of the rest of the league (Dallas is second, with a 113.6 mark). For perspective, consider that last year's Phoenix Suns team scored 111.9 points per 100 possessions, and that a team featuring Ben Wallace at center and a point guard on his sixth team are playing at a more efficient offensive rate.

• Dallas' current eight-game winning streak ranks second in the league to Detroit's 11-game run. Although the Mavericks have been slaughtering teams by 16.9 points per game over their run, blowout wins over the Trail Blazers, Jazz, Warriors, SuperSonics and Rockets were to be expected. Jerry Stackhouse led the Mavs in scoring twice in those games and is averaging 14.9 points over the last eight, despite playing 30 minutes just once. Teammate Adrian Griffin doesn't have the greatest stats (four points and eight boards) over the same period, but his presence has been crucial. After suckering defenses into paying attention to him, he's been adept at making the extra pass out to the guy who then passes to the guy who hits the shot. Dirk Nowitzki (25.9 points per game) is usually that last guy.

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