Pistons find sparkplug in McDyess
AUBURN HILLS, MICH -- He's the fifth Beatle, the spare tire, the one member of the Pistons starting unit without an NBA championship ring.
But thanks to Antonio McDyess, Detroit still has a shot at another one.
McDyess had a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds Monday night as the Pistons outwrestled the Celtics 94-75 in Game 4 to even up the Eastern Conference finals at 2-all.
"I'm almost to the end of the road," the 33-year-old power forward said. "You only have so many opportunities. ... I just wanted to leave everything on the floor."
The Pistons can point to other factors for Monday's victory. Richard Hamilton had 20 points on a crisp eight-of-10 shooting. Rasheed Wallace contributed 14 points, five boards and five blocks. Jason Maxiell came off the bench for 14 points and a highlight-reel block of Kevin Garnett.
And the Pistons dialed up the physical play to Desperation level, holding Boston to 31.8 percent shooting (21-of-66).
But it was McDyess, their soft-spoken 12-year veteran and former All-Star who joined the team the season after their 2004 title, who stole the show. In a game the Pistons absolutely had to win to keep alive their NBA title hopes, he played like a man possessed.
In a sweltering Palace crammed with 20,000 fans ready to jump out of their skins, he was the one coolest under pressure.
McDyess did it from start to finish, making the Celtics pay time and again for leaving him open. He had eight points right off the bat to help stake Detroit to a 10-0 lead. By the time the quarter ended Detroit was ahead 22-17, and McDyess had already logged 11 points and five boards.
He would go on to hit a slew of big shots and grab a bunch of big boards the rest of the way, helping Detroit turn back every Boston run.
At one point he even outjumped the 7-foot Garnett to win a jump ball.
How clearly did McDyess want to win this game and avoid having to go back to Boston down 3-1? When he swished a jumper in the first half he turned and pumped his fist to the crowd. Usually McDyess only acts up like that after getting whistled for fouls.
"I've never seen him with the emotion he has," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He's making shots and pump fisting. It's like he's got a new personality. He's definitely hungry, I know that."
McDyess' heroics left the Celtics shaking their collective heads. Their game plan all series has been to swarm the other Pistons starters and not let them get to their preferred spots. It often leaves the 6-10 McDyess wide open for jumpers.
"They always leave me for some reason," he said. "They're a big help team on the strong side, and the weak side is always open. I just try to get to the open areas and knock down the shot."
So far McDyess has done a good job making them pay. He had 14 points (on 5-of-10 shooting) in Game 1 and 15 points (on seven-of-12 shooting) in Game 2. He also has pounded the backboards for 9.2 rebounds per game.
"He's been good all but one game, really," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's been the X factor for them in a lot of ways. He's made a lot of big shots for them. He's very comfortable right now, and we've got to get him out of his comfort zone."
For the Celtics, it could be a tougher task than it sounds. After coming up short with the Pistons in the '05 Finals, and then getting bounced out of the Eastern finals the past two seasons, McDyess is a man on a mission.
"I'm kind of fed up with the excuses," he said.
Detroit, a team that seems too blasé for its own good a lot of times, might have just found its sparkplug.