AUBURN HILLS, MICH. This is why Detroit wanted home-court advantage.
The Pistons were determined to get it after falling just short of repeating as champions last year in Game 7 at San Antonio.
And they did, winning a
franchise-record 64 games - 10 more than they had in each of the previous two years under Larry Brown. That ensured the team would play in familiar surroundings in any Game 7s this postseason after playing in two on the road last year.
Like the Pistons, many fans at The Palace were nonchalant at times in Game 5, when the Cleveland Cavaliers took a stunning 3-2 lead Wednesday in their second-round series.
It's a safe bet the Pistons and 22,000 fans will take the Cavs seriously this afternoon with a spot in the Eastern Conference finals at stake.
"The Palace is going to be bananas," Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace said. "We're going to tear the roof off the joint."
The Pistons know it's possible to win a Game 7 on the road because they did it last year at Miami in their third straight Eastern Conference final. They know history is on their side in the decisive game. Home teams are 76-17 in Game 7s, an 81.7 percent success rate.
Experience is expected to give Detroit an edge, too.
The Pistons' top seven players were in a pair of Game 7s last year. Their starting lineup also played in a Game 7 two years ago - when Detroit lost three straight to New Jersey and fell behind 3-2, as it did to the Cavs. And four starters are still around from the first-round series in 2003, when the Pistons overcame a 3-1 deficit to Orlando.
Cleveland, on the other hand, has just four players with Game 7 experience: Damon Jones, Eric Snow, Drew Gooden and Alan Henderson.
While Detroit appears to have a lot in its favor heading into the game, it doesn't have LeBron James.
The 21-year-old phenom has been nothing short of spectacular in his first postseason. Even though James hasn't been in a Game 7, he doesn't plan to start leaning on veteran teammates for advice.
"I haven't been in Game 1s or Game 2s or Game 3s or 4s or 5s or 6s until this year - and I think I've handled myself the right way," he said.
James made two game-winning shots in the first round against Washington, leading the Cavs to the second round for the first time since 1993.
"If you had asked me before the series what I would have wished, I would have wished to just get it to Game 7 and get it to the fourth quarter," Snow said. "If you can do that, that's when your superstar, your best player really benefits."
The Pistons pounced on the Cavs in Game 1, winning 113-86, and were dominant for a little more than a half of Game 2 before Cleveland fell short in a rally but built momentum that carried over for three straight wins.
"I was telling the players - six days ago, a lot of people were patting you on your back," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Those same people, six days later, were getting the shovels out with the dirt. So things change pretty quick, both ways."