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Detroit Pistons win NBA Championship

 


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/ June 16, 2004

The pride of a city was trumpeted loud and clear as the Detroit Pistons brought the NBA Championship back east, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 100-87 in game 5 to take the best of seven series 4-1.

Game 5 looked like a summary of the series; Detroit got the loose balls, played hardcore defense, attacked the Lakers in their weak areas and ran their offense to perfection. Ben Wallace led the charge, saving his best performance for the championship clinching game, scoring 18 points and grabbing 22 rebounds. Tayshaun Prince also did the double-double thing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Series MVP Chauncey Billups finished with 14 points.

Los Angeles did everything they could in the first half to stay competitive, but like in a boxing match, they exhausted themselves and had nothing left in the second half. It was clear Detroit was not only on their way to the championship trophy but they were taking away the heart of a past champion as well.

The evening got off to a bad start for the LA as Karl Malone’s knee injury was so bad he did not even suit up. The Lakers continued their disturbing pattern of barking at the officials instead of focusing on the task at hand. I don’t think a team in an evenly matched contest has ever won a game by concentrating on both the opponent and the referees. Then again maybe this wasn’t evenly matched.

This year’s finals reminded me of the second Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield fight. The Lakers looked like Mike Tyson with all the menacing flash and popularity. The Pistons took the persona of Evander Holyfield with its workmanlike, hard hat approach. Like Tyson in that infamous fight, Los Angeles was so thoroughly dominated they had no answers and looked for an out, an excuse, an escape.

After what they accomplished in the playoffs, defeating tough teams convincingly in Houston, San Antonio and Minnesota, we watched them crack before our eyes.

This group of Lakers will obviously break up. Derek Fisher will probably go. Gary Payton should go. Depending on how his trial ends, Kobe Bryant might involuntarily go. Even Phil Jackson stated after the game that there is a “slim chance” he will return. Unless Mitch Kupchak figures out how to do the job of a quality GM, the Lakers will no longer be considered among the league’s elite.

For the last several years, the Sacramento Kings were anointed as the model for team basketball. Forget the Kings, those Pistons are the new model to emulate.

All the credit in the world has to go to Joe Dumars and Larry Brown.

I gave my Executive of the Year award to Jerry West but if I had to do it now it would go to Joe D hands down. Dumars evaluated the direction of the team after last year’s playoffs and made a decision very few GMs would make by firing Rick Carlisle. To be honest, there was no apparent reason to do so. But Dumars saw something that no one else saw.

He convinced Larry Brown to come in and take over a solid team. Brown felt he had received another opportunity to compete for the ultimate prize and he imposed his style on the players, emphasizing the importance of defense and teamwork.

This team was capable of making a playoff run going into the season but when Rasheed Wallace became available, Joe D seized the moment. There is no doubt that obtaining Rasheed in a trade at the trading deadline was the final piece needed to not only win the Eastern Conference but compete against the more talented teams from the West.

A well-deserved congratulation goes to Brown as he is the first and only head coach to lead both an NBA and NCAA team to a championship. He was the Phil Mickelson of the NBA coaching fraternity. Not anymore.

The Detroit Pistons are set up to make a “Chicago Bull” run on championships for the next several years. Their core players are still very young and under contract. Rip Hamilton matures into an all-star caliber player. Ben Wallace’s offense continues to improve. Everyone in the Pistons organization feels Darko Milicic will grow and mature into an impact player. Rasheed Wallace should resign in the off-season. Hell, they even got the best PA announcer in the league in Mason, what more do they need?

Sports Journalism has stepped up its game with the Sportsfather Step Clay! Comments? Questions? Contact Step at Stephen.clay@comcast.net.







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