Pistons test the bounds of elite defense in Game 1 win over Nets

You thought the Pistons missed the playoffs? Not at PistonPowered.

We’re honoring the 10th anniversary of the 2004 NBA championship team by examining each postseason game on the corresponding 2014 date. We’ll look back at Detroit’s performances, detail our memories of that time and provide insight from the players and coaches who were Goin’ to Work every single night.

So, stick with us this “offseason.” I have a hunch these Pistons will be playing into June.

New Jersey Nets 56 Final
Recap | Box Score
78 Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups, PG 38 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTSBillups had a rough game. But if he had been playing for the Nets, he wouldn’t have hurt their assist-turnover ratio and he would have actually helped the shooting percentage. Detroit’s defense was that good.
Richard Hamilton, SG 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTSHamilton managed to put together about an average game on offense. In a match up against a team setting records for the teams’ inability to score, that’s really valuable.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 36 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 10 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTSPrince has been so consistent, it’s almost getting boring. But it’s also a big part of the reason the Pistons have won five times as many games as they’ve lost this postseason.

Richard Jefferson has averaged 19 points on 50% shooting this season. Prince held him to eight points on 1-12 shooting.

Rasheed Wallace, PF 24 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTSThe Nets were playing an avant-garde small lineup much of the game. Rasheed was a big part of shutting it down. Being able to play inside and out on both ends of the floor is a huge asset, even if it impaired his ability to grab rebounds. The Pistons managed fine, still grabbing a 48-29 edge on the glass.

Ben Wallace, C 35 MIN | 4-6 FG | 5-10 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTSRasheed tracking guys outside forced Ben to often man the paint single-handedly. I’d say he did just fine.
Corliss Williamson, PF 14 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTSWilliamson makes so little of a dent on the scoreboard that I am mostly resigned to evaluating him by team play when he is on or off the court. The Pistons scored 1.50 points per minute with him in and 1.68 with him out. The Nets scored 1.36 with him in and 1.09 with him out. Obviously, reserves aren’t expected to play as well as starters, but that drop off is too great.

Lindsey Hunter, PG 14 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTSHunter’s counterpart, Lucious Harris, was the only Net able to get anything going. Given that Hunter is in the game almost entirely for his defense (and the fact that his offense lived down to those low expectations), that’s not very impressive.
Mehmet Okur, C 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTSMemo is making the most of his opportunities, consistently outplaying other reserves.  
Mike James, PG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTSJames turned the ball over two of the first four times he touched it. On the other hand, upon his entrance to the game, the Nets didn’t score for three minutes.  
Elden Campbell, C 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTSApart from one 12 foot jumper, no Net hit a shot within 20 feet of the basket while Campbell was on the floor. Talk about protecting the rim.  
Darvin Ham, SF 3 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTSHam played just three minutes and yet he hit a shot. That puts him at a rate of 10 times what he did in the last series.  
Darko Milicic, C 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSMilicic entered the game with a 23 point lead and 85 seconds to play. He promptly sent Zoran Planinic to the stripe and gave up a pair of offensive rebounds, allowing New Jersey to escape the possibility of recording the lowest scoring playoff game of all time.  
Larry Brown, Head Coach
56 points! 27 percent shooting! 19 field goals, a playoff record! Yeah, the Pistons flat out embarrassed the Nets. This is probably the best defensive stand I’ve ever seen.

-Tim Thielke

From the frontlines

Dave Hanners, a Pistons assistant coach in 2004, didn’t initially remember the biggest moment of this series. (Don’t worry, we did, and we’ll have more on it later.) But Hanners hasn’t forgotten how he felt entering the series.

I didn’t think we could beat them,” Hanners said.

The Nets swept the Pistons in 2003, and though Hanners and the rest of Larry Brown’s coaching staff wasn’t with Detroit at that point, they still had concerns in 2004 about Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and the the rest of the Nets.

“Kidd was just such a dominant leader on the floor. That really stood out to me. He controlled everything better than we could control things,” Hanners said. “And Martin was just so tough. He just kind of beat us up.

“My memory is just that they were just really, really good, and I thought we’d stink.”

Game 1 was obviously a wakeup call.

-Dan Feldman

Up next

These Pistons put together some truly great defensive performances during their run to the title, but holy crap, was this the granddaddy of them all.

Detroit made 14 free throws and the Nets made 19 TOTAL FIELD GOALS! It’s almost shocking to go back and see that this New Jersey team, one that swept the Pistons the previous season, was capable of being muzzled like this.

The interesting part of this defensive effort is that it wasn’t just a ton of blocks and steals — the Nets had jus 12 turnovers. It was just genuinely physical, get-the-hell-out-of-here defense.

These Pistons were so good defensively, but it was specifically taking away your favorite looks and subsequently making you hate your life as you labored to find another look.

Holding the Nets to 27 percent shooting isn’t sustainable for the rest of the series, but now the question is what do the Pistons do for an encore?

-Brady Fredericksen

Tags: Ben Wallace Chauncey Billups Corliss Williamson Darko Milicic Darvin Ham Elden Campbell Larry Brown Lindsey Hunter Mehmet Okur Mike James Rasheed Wallace Richard Hamilton Tayshaun Prince