Antonio McDyess’ Heroics Keeping the Detroit Pistons On Pace with Boston Celtics

Antonio McDyess, Detroit Pistons ECF MVPIt’s becoming clear that nobody on the Detroit Pistons roster is hungrier to win a NBA title—this year’s NBA title—than Antonio McDyess.

As the lone starter who wasn’t a part of the 2004 NBA Championship team, McDyess hasn’t had the luxury of going home and dusting off a diamond-encrusted ring as consolation these last few years after his Pistons bowed out in the conference finals. He came close in ’05 when Detroit made it back to the NBA Finals, only to be denied the chance for a repeat after the Spurs eventually prevailed in seven games. Close, but no cigar.

With the way he’s played thus far against the Boston Celtics, however—and throughout these 2008 playoffs in general—that could all change for McDyess very soon. Outside of diehard Lakers fans, is there anyone out there who doesn’t think the real NBA Finals are going on right now in the Eastern Conference? And that the winner should be a heavy favorite to oust the Lakers, assuming they get there (which looks very likely at this point). Should the Pistons somehow overcome Boston’s home-court advantage and eliminate the NBA’s top team in their now best-of-three series, McDyess would get my vote as the team’s Postseason MVP.

Antonio McDyess Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Consider what he’s doing both on the court and off it. In Game 4 at the Palace, Dice was nothing short of spectacular, doing his best impersonation of his former high-flying self in shooting 8-14 FG for 21 points and 16 rebounds—including 7 on the offensive glass—on the night. He came up with loose balls, nailed back-breaker jumpers at times when Boston was looking to turn the tide in their favor, and sunk 5 of 6 free throws. (McDyess is a career 67% shooter from the line.)

He’s now averaging 14.5 points, 10.7 boards, and 55% FG in four games so far against the Celtics, numbers that have helped compensate for poor overall series’ from two of the Pistons All-Star starters in Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. His playmaking ability is also making things tough on Celtics head coach Doc Rivers because he doesn’t feel comfortable with Big Baby Davis or Leon Powe guarding Dice for any length of time. That means more minutes (and wear and tear) for Garnett, Perkins, and Brown.

Without his increased intensity and personal motivation, this could very well be a close-out game tonight for the Celtics, not a chance for Detroit to take a 3-2 advantage.

He’s also getting it done off the court, shedding his laid-back demeanor in favor of a more vocal role when it comes to pushing his teammates to leave it all out on the floor:

He no longer is silently deferring to the stars. At the film session Sunday he said his piece after others had talked about the Pistons being fine.”He was very emphatic,” coach Flip Saunders said. “He said, ‘We been talking everything is all right. We got to make it happen.’ I’ve never seen him with this much emotion.”

“For me, I’m almost to the end of the road, and I just feel like leaving everything on the floor so there won’t be any excuses,” he said. “I’m kind of fed up with the excuses. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had excuses why we haven’t won another championship, and I feel that if I don’t say anything vocally that we would have an excuse this year. I don’t want us to have no excuse.”

The time for excuses has indeed passed. Game 5 tips off at 8:30pm tonight on ESPN.

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