Richard Hamilton outwits Ron Artest in clutch, gets Pistons to NBA Finals

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.

Indiana Pacers 65 Final
Recap | Box Score
69 Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups, PG 40 MIN | 2-13 FG | 4-6 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTSIt was a rough series for Billups. He averaged 13 points, 3 boards, 6 assists, and 4 turnovers on 31% shooting. The Pistons will probably need a lot better from him to beat L.A.
Richard Hamilton, SG 47 MIN | 7-15 FG | 7-8 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTSHamilton has been Detroit’s leading scorer all year, but he’s rarely carried them like he has had to in this series. He has been averaging 24 points on 47% shooting. Meanwhile, the rest of the team combined has averaged 51 points on 34% shooting.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 26 MIN | 3-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTSPrince has had a strong defensive series, but has still played poorly overall by being a massive liability on offense. After a great first round, Prince has played miserably in the next two. He somehow scored less than Corliss Williamson despite playing almost twice as many minutes.

Rasheed Wallace, PF 43 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTSIt would be nice if he could hit a few more of his shots, but Sheed played very good defense throughout the series. And if you account for the depressed numbers attained by two defensive stalwarts of teams playing at a snail’s pace, 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game ain’t bad.

Ben Wallace, C 45 MIN | 6-16 FG | 0-1 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTSBen Wallace didn’t shoot much in this series, but his 40% hit rate was better than any Piston with at least 5 attempts, save Rip. He probably should have forced the issue a bit more. No matter, his 16 caroms per night were sensational and his defense holding Jermaine O’Neal to 40% shooting (and even lower if you only count when Ben was on the floor) was more important than anything he could have done offensively.
Corliss Williamson, PF 19 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTSRon With Prince struggling, Williamson was given a larger role for the series. His 30% shooting was miserable, but otherwise, he made the most of his time. Williamson scored, rebounded, and even played decent defense.

Lindsey Hunter, PG 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTSHunter had a rough series that saw him apparently demoted to fourth guard status. And it’s not hard to blame Brown, as Hunter was a complete offensive zero. Sure he didn’t get much playing time, but he only averaged 4 points per 48 minutes. However, by series’ end, he seemed to get promoted back to third guard. I’m afraid I don’t understand Brown’s rotations very much.
Mehmet Okur, C 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTSOkur’s defense is sufficiently unreliable that he really needs to be producing more than 7 points and 6 rebounds per 36 minutes to justify getting much play time. He has the capacity to do better, but he wasn’t shining against Indiana.  
Darvin Ham, SF 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSHam didn’t have any games this series in which he did enough to be evaluated. But in sum, he put up 4 points (on 2-4 shooting), 6 rebounds, a block, a steal, and 3 turnovers in 21 minutes. That’s not awful, but it’s not good either.  
Larry Brown, Head Coach
Brown rode the starters long and hard in the sixth game. But it proved to be worth it as they squeaked out a tight victory and advance to the finals.This whole series, but especially this game, was a defensive slugfest. The Pacers and Pistons set a new record for fewest points in a playoff half with just 60. That broke the old record, 62, set by the Pistons and Nets in the previous round.

-Tim Thielke

From the frontlines

In 1950, the first year the Pistons made the playoffs, Fred Schaus scored 15 percent of all points by either team in the Central Division Finals. That franchise record for individual scoring impact stood for 54 years.

The 2004 Eastern Conference Finals were a slugfest featuring two of the NBA’s toughest teams and best defenses, and the slow pace accentuated both traits.

Yet, in a series featuring an average score of 75-72, Richard Hamilton – with the Defensive Player of the Year primarily guarding him – averaged 23.7 points per game. That’s 16 percent of all scoring in the series, a franchise record that still stands.

Hamilton’s crowning moment came with just under four minutes left in Game 6, when the score was tied at 59 (59!).

Ron Artest had problems with flagrant fouls earlier in his career, but he cleaned them up in 2003-04 to wrestle away Ben Wallace’s two-year stranglehold on Defensive Player of the Year. Artest was a phenomenal wing defender, and he cross-matched onto Hamilton frequently once it became clear Reggie Miller wasn’t up to the task.

“Artest was the better defender,” then-Pistons assistant Dave Hanners said, “but he’s strong. He’s not necessarily capable of chasing and running.”

So, Hamilton – more than he usually did to defenders, which was already a lot – made Artest chase and run. Eventually frustrated by a series of Hamilton exposing his weakness, Artest decked Hamilton in the face with a forearm.

Hamilton lay on the court for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he got up and made both flagrant free throws, and Rasheed Wallace dunked as Detroit kept the ball. That four-point possession put the Pistons up for good, sending them to the NBA Finals for the first time since the Bad Boys.

And it’s because Larry Brown had the faith to make Hamilton such a focal point of the offense.

“A lot of people run what they call ‘two chest’ now. He was one of the first people to ever run it, and he ran it for Rip,” Hanners said. “Because Rip started at the foul line like he was shooting foul shots. He could go either way. … He just kept running around until he came off a screener and got a jump shot.”

-Dan Feldman

Up next

They just kept Goin’ to Work, didn’t they?

They trailed series, they led series, they looked dead in series and in the end they won series. The Pistons found a way — even if it wasn’t always pretty — and that’s why they took out Indiana. When the Pacers needed a big play, they didn’t really get it outside of Reggie Miller’s dagger in Game 1. The Pistons made the play when they needed the play — that was the mark of a champion.

Ironically, the team they faced in the NBA Finals, the star-studded Lakers, also had the same moxie for finding a way. If you remember, the Lakers snuck by Minnesota in the Western Conference Finals thanks to six 3-pointers by little-used reserve Kareem Rush.

Now, we get to see the “starless” contender versus the team that started four Hall of Famers beginning on June 6.

- Brady Fredericksen

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Tags: Dave Hanners Larry Brown Metta World Peace Richard Hamilton

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