Drive to the Finals Expert Pick: 5/10/07
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By Jeff Dengate

One game. Zero choices.

The schedule has only one matchup, making our decision for who to select for Thursday's Drive to the Finals expert pick, once again, a no-brainer.

I'll cut to the chase: Take Luol Deng today.

A little thinking behind the pick, to satisfy your mind and persuade you to think like us.

(Note to those who have already selected Luol Deng: Ben Gordon is an acceptable substitute and all of the below still applies.)

The Detroit Pistons have played six postseason games. They have won six postseason games. They appear as locked in and focused as any team in the league, which, to some degree, comes as a surprise to newest arrival Chris Webber. And even though the team is up two-games-to-none on the Bulls, they still went long in practice on Tuesday.

What's the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

Well, prevention for Detroit could entail playing as few games as possible so the starters are as fresh as daisies, ensuring nobody turns an ankle, breaks a nose or any of the other pratfalls that come when bodies wear down and guys go all out with the season's end drawing near.

That all leaves me believing there's no way Chicago storms back to win four-of-five from Detroit. In fact, considering how easily the Pistons dominated Chicago at The Palace of Auburn Hills, I'm thinking you should use both Deng and Gordon during the next two games before it's too late. (I tried already and, no, there's no possible way to select them both for tonight's game.)

Now, if the Bulls are to rebound and give themselves even the slightest hope of advancing to the Conference Finals, they must, absolutely have to, win Game 3 in their own gym. At the United Center, the Bulls owned an Eastern Conference best 31-10 home record during the regular season -- a mark equalled or bettered by only Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio. (Then again, two of three will be Gone Fishin' by the end of this round, so maybe that's not the best argument to make ...)

So, which Bull -- Deng or Gordon -- is going to come up biggest in the team's biggest game of the season? Well, you can make an argument against each: Deng has to find a way to score with Tayshaun Prince draped all over him. No easy task, to be certain. Gordon, on the other hand, draws the challenge of chasing Rip Hamilton around, over and through an obstacle course of screens, leaving precious little energy to do much of anything on the offensive end.

The key decision -- and, let's face it, we're using both over the course of the next few games anyway -- is which player to use when so we can maximize our point total.

During the regular season, Gordon led the team in scoring and edged Deng in the PRA department (29.6 to 28.4). Deng, though, exploded in four games vs. the Heat and has been better than Gordon through the first two contests vs. Detroit.

Based on the regular-season numbers and their last two performances alone, I'm inclined to go with Deng over Gordon. Even if Luol can't get anything going because of the lanky Prince, he still can grab some boards and post a respectable PRA. Gordon, averaging only 10.0 points per game vs. Detroit in the series, has, more startlingly, posted a mere 1.5 boards and 2.5 assists per contest.

Now, if Scott Skiles chooses to bring Gordon off the bench again, will that light a fire under the youngster and make us re-think our selection? Most definitely. But, for the time being and until further notice, Deng's your man tonight.

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Luol Deng, CHI

When: Wednesday, May 10 at 9 p.m. ET
Opponent: vs. Detroit
Pts: 23.2 Reb: 8.0 Ast: 2.2
Average PRA: 33.4

Yesterday's Pick: Stephen Jackson, GSW (22 PRA)
Expert Pick Playoffs Total: 692
Expert Pick Archive
1. Ben Gordon, CHI vs DET (28.8 PRA)
2. Andres Nocioni, CHI vs DET (15.8 PRA)
3. Ben Wallace, CHI vs DET (20.0 PRA)
The last thing you want to do is use up a Pistons player when you may need them at some point during the Conference Finals or NBA Finals.
Points won't come easy against Prince, but Deng should still post a respectable PRA on Thursday.
(D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

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