Rasheed must lead.
The Cleveland Cavaliers fan holding the Rasheed Must Bleed sign got it all wrong after power forward Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons cut Zydrunas Ilgauskas' head open with a vicious blow in a regular-season game.
Retribution was demanded, and Ilgauskas complied by taking down Wallace the next time the teams played.
To re-establish dominance tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena, Detroit needs Wallace to back up his bold proclamation following Cleveland's 86-77 victory on Saturday with action.
"We had a little breakdown,'' Wallace explained.
"We are not worried about it, this is one game. We've still got our eyes on the prize. We are not going to let this discourage us. We are still going to win this series.''
Wallace went on to punctuate his "guarantee'' with some colorful locker room talk and a promise the series won't return to Cleveland for Game 6 because LeBron James and Co. will be making vacation plans by then. Game 5 is Wednesday at the Palace.
That in itself is a victory for the Cavaliers. Simply because the Cavs were feared dead in the water after losing the first two games in overmatched fashion.
Detroit winning this series was never a question. The Pistons hold a 2-1 lead. Cleveland making it a competitive series was the concern.
That is no longer the case.
Still, Cleveland beating Detroit twice would be a minor miracle.
Won't happen, promised Rasheed.
The same way Wallace promised the Pistons would respond with a road win after losing Game 1 of the 2004 Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, he's also predicting the Cavaliers' demise tonight.
"They changed up a little bit. They did what they were supposed to do,'' Wallace said of Cleveland's Game 3 win highlighted by James' triple-double. "They did their thing.''
And Wallace did his thing, speaking his mind and telling the truth as he sees it - with a hint of controversy.
He had plenty to say, as usual. And he did it in a way that puts the pressure squarely on himself.
And just to show how confident he is against the Cavaliers, he reiterated his victory prediction to reporters after practice at Quicken Loans Arena yesterday afternoon. Then he added, "There's only one team out there, two teams tops, that can really give us that good challenge that it's like, 'All right, we know we can't make no mistakes against those teams.' "
Asked by a reporter if the Cavaliers were one of those teams, Wallace said, "Nah."
Detroit point guard Chauncey Billups challenged Wallace to back up his strong words with a stronger on-court performance.
"I think 'Sheed didn't really get aggressive as he should have until late in the game when we were down the last four minutes,'' Billups said.
Wallace finished with 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting in Game 3. He led the Pistons with 29 points in Game 2.
Wallace's biggest drawback, other than his inability to hold his temper, or his mouth, is his reluctance to monopolize the basketball. His unselfishness is a rarity because he's a star player who's just as comfortable shooting as he is passing.
Late in Game 3, "He got aggressive, and then we started running his play,'' Billups said. "And he got aggressive, but it wasn't enough. It was a little too late.''
A greedy Rasheed is a dangerous offensive player. Detroit has yet to play a game in this series when Wallace enjoyed a big scoring output along with Billups and Richard Hamilton in the backcourt.
Game 4 is probably a good time for Detroit to test Billups' early-bird-gets-the-worm theory regarding Wallace.
After doing some straight talking, expect some straight shooting from Wallace.