Another fantastic day in NBA playoff action, not as good as day one, but still a solid 2nd opening. It's interesting to see that despite being the playoffs, with so much on the line, teams pretty much stay the same from regular season and even from last season. I'm specifically talking about the Pistons here. The problem that the Pistons have is themselves, they don't take things seriously and they have a sense of arrogance, that they are better than everyone and they can beat teams without even trying.

Of course, that couldn't be further from the truth, especially in this year's NBA where the playoff teams area all so even. Some people pointed to the fact that several Piston players were hanging out at the scorer's table in-game as if it was a preseason game, joking around with former teammates eating nachos and pop in the front row. Well, that certainly didn't help.

But to me, the biggest tactical mistake was from head coach Flip Saunders. I know he was trying to even out the minutes to rest his starters for what he hopes to be a long playoff run, but basketball is all about timing and momentum. The Sixers were making a major run in the late part of the 3rd quarter and early part of the 4th quarter against Detroit's subs and would eventually tie the game. Detroit's starters came back into the game cold around the 8:00 min mark and couldn't get into a rhythm the rest of the way, Needless to say the Sixers wound up winning the game after trailing for 3.5 quarters. Here are 2 critical offensive (defensive for Sixers) sequence that in my opinion were the gamebreakers,

By no means do I want to diminish the excellent defensive effort of the Sixers. I think Mo Cheeks did a fabulous job getting his guys ready for a comeback in the 2nd half. Against the Pistons subs, I love the aggressive all-out denying defense, you could tell that the Pistons were totally confused,

But I'm convinced that had the Pistons starters been in the game in the early part of the 4th quarter, the Pistons walk away from game one with a win. It just goes to underscore the critical importance of player substitutions. For most of the first part of the 4th quarter, the Pistons went with Lindsay Hunter, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell and Theo Ratliff. Prince was the only offensive threat and he was rushed on most of his shots.

Well, it's always tough because you want to give your starters a blow heading into the final few minutes of the game. But you can't take them all out at the same time (minus Prince). I would've gone with a lineup like Hunter, Prince, Hamilton, Wallace and Maxiell. Then maybe bring in McDyess for Maxiell, Billups for Hunter and Stuckey for Hamilton halfway. Last 4 minutes would be all 5 starters subbing out Prince and Wallace a couple of short times in between timeouts and free-throws to rest. Besides, because of so many TV timeouts they get in the NBA, that is why you see a lot of players averaging 40+ minutes per game all season. I've always believed in the philosophy that you shorten your bench to about 8 in the playoffs (excluding blowouts).

In a sense, it is highly ironic that Flip Saunders who has been highly criticized in the past for relying too heavily on his starters, is now being criticized for playing the subs. But more than anything it's about the timing. You have to know when to put in the starters, when to take them out, when to call timeouts to change momentum, switch defenses, etc... It's complicated, I know, but that's what coaches are being paid to do, make those big important decisions that change outcomes of games.

For more great info on developing a winning team concept, check out Hubie Brown's DVD on his Secrets to Winning Basketball. It was great to hear Hubie on TV today and I look forward to more of his broadcasts the rest of the playoffs. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.