The Pistons solved the Case of the Missing Mojo on Wednesday night, finding their confidence beneath the hard rims where defense is synonymous with survival.
Yet, Detroit's feel-good resurgence after a 91-78 Game-5 victory over Miami is tempered by the fact that the Heat hold a 3-2 series lead for Game 6 on Friday in the American Airlines Arena, where Detroit has yet to earn a victory this series.
Last year, though, the Pistons came back from a 3-2 series deficit and celebrated their Eastern Conference championship on Miami's home court, a memory that will no doubt fuel both teams.
"We know the atmosphere is going to be rowdy," Tayshaun Prince said after scoring a playoff career-high 29 points in Game 5, "but in a situation where you're on the road, everybody in that blue jersey is all we have to worry about."
In the last three years, the Pistons have been at their best when trying to stave off elimination. Nine times out of 11 since the 2003 playoffs, the Pistons have rallied to save their season.
Asked to explain their ability to survive, coach Flip Saunders said: "It's very workmanlike. You always revert back to pressure situations and to your strengths and that is our ability to defend and our ability to be a close-tight team."
Their playoff resiliency had its roots in their 2003 first-round series victory against Orlando -- when the Pistons overcame a 3-1 deficit -- and took off after their stunning finish to the 2004 Eastern Conference semifinals against New Jersey.
After suffering a dispiriting 127-120 triple-overtime defeat at the Palace and falling behind, 3-2, the Pistons won the next game in New Jersey and finished the Nets off at home. They never again faced elimination on the way to capturing their most recent NBA title.
If recent history gives them their edge, Miami's desire to make history - by reaching the finals for the first time in franchise history -- gives them urgency.
"I don't think they have too much pressure on them; they're still up," center Ben Wallace said. "We've still got to come out and play desperate."
And Saunders quieted the critics -- the loudest came from his own locker room -- with his ever-changing defense. He mixed coverages on Dwyane Wade, having Richard Hamilton start on him and sending Prince and Chauncey Billups and even Wallace to try to trap him.
"I think we finally got to the point where we put a little bit of pressure on them," Saunders said. "We were more aggressive, we were energetic, we had a lot of different looks so he just really couldn't get in a total comfort level."
Wade had scored no fewer than 10 points in every fourth quarter before Game 5. The Pistons held him to six points on Wednesday and Shaquille O'Neal to 7. And no one else on the Heat scored that quarter.
While the Heat choked at the foul line, missing 14 of 20, the Pistons held the Heat to 44.2 percent shooting from the field, its lowest figure in the series.