Reaching Los Angeles more difficult than beating the heavily favored Lakers in Game 1 of 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.

Detroit Pistons 87 Final Recap | Box Score 75 Los Angeles Lakers
Chauncey Billups, PG 39 MIN | 8-14 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTSChauncey dominated his matchup against a future hall of famer. It’s hard to ask much more than that. Sure, Gary Payton is well removed from his prime. But he’s still normally a lot better than 3, 2, and 3. And it’s not like Derek Fisher did any better.
Richard Hamilton, SG 43 MIN | 5-16 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 12 PTSHamilton shot poorly and coughed the ball up way too frequently. Apart from that, it was a good game, but those are pretty important metrics.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 35 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTSPrince looks to be rounding back into form. He shot well, forced Kobe Bryant into a lot of bad shots, and contributed across the board.

Rasheed Wallace, PF 29 MIN | 3-4 FG | 6-6 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTSLike Payton, Karl Malone is surely past his prime. But he’s still a pretty darn good player normally. Sheed shut him down.

Ben Wallace, C 41 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTSI don’t envy Wallace’s draw. Guarding Shaq is a monumental task for anyone. And Ben should be more up to the challenge than most. But he has to do better than this, especially better than the first half. O’Neal is a beast and will win the matchup all series. But if Ben can play it a little closer to even, that will really help the Pistons win three more.
Corliss Williamson, PF 11 MIN | 2-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTSWilliamson led Detroit’s bench, who dominated Los Angeles’ 19-4.

Lindsey Hunter, PG 13 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS
Mehmet Okur, C 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTSOkur may not have crashed the boards very hard, but he boxed out well and the Pistons outrebounded the Lakers 5-2 with Memo checked in.  
Mike James, PG 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS  
Darvin Ham, SF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSFour minutes isn’t a lot of playing time. but it’s enough that a guy should do something.  
Elden Campbell, C 18 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-6 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTSCampbell had some nice swats and swipes, but he was no more effective than Ben at slowing down Shaq.  
Larry Brown, Head Coach Shaq was destroying the Pistons early and Brown made the right adjustments. While O’Neal continued to capitalize on his shots, the Pistons made a point of denying them to him. In the last 26 minutes, Detroit avoided putting him on the free throw line at all and forced him into four turnovers after he had 12 and 2 respectively in the first 22 minutes.

The Pistons also did a good job of not allowing the non-superstar Lakers to beat them. Apart from Shaq, LA shot 15-57 (28%). Apart from Kobe and Shaq, they shot 6-30 (20%).

-Tim Thielke

From the Frontlines

As well as Larry Brown coaches basketball, he handles one element of the job – at least on the professional level – especially poorly.

"Larry is a very bad flyer,” former Pistons assistant Dave Hanners said. “He’s OK, but he’s got a really super-hypersensitive inner ear.”

When the plane moved a degree, Brown would say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa."

“He could feel it long before anybody else, and it was much more dramatic for him,” Hanners said.

That made the Pistons’ flight to Los Angeles before Game 1 a nightmare for Brown.

The pilot of Roundball One, Chuck Shipp, was an experienced pilot who’d flown in Vietnam. He typically kept the door to the cockpit open, so the coaches – seated in the front – knew what was happening.

On this flight, he informed them two dramatic fronts were approaching, and he’d try to sneak between them.

“He said, ‘If we don’t make it before they hit, it’s going to be really, really rough,’” Hanners said.

They didn’t make it.

Shipp informed everyone to fasten their seatbelts, and the plane began shaking violently – up and down, left and right.

“Like the worst ride you’ve ever been on in an amusement park,” Hanners said. “And it was awful.

“Larry was screaming and cussing. ‘Get us out of this, Chuck!’ Screaming and cussing.”

Shipp – the door between the cockpit and cabin was still open – tried to ease Brown’s worries, but Hanners saw the pilot jostling around himself.

“That was probably one the scariest moments I think I’ve ever experienced on an airplane,” Mike James said. “It was so scary that we had to do an emergency landing. Everyone was scared. Everyone was nervous.”

Actually, Hanners said, it was a scheduled pit stop to refuel.

“It was the worst flight I’ve been on, and that’s why people said we made an emergency landing,” Hanners said. “It felt like it to everybody that was behind Larry, because of al the cussing.”

Once they landed, Brown asked Shipp where that turbulence ranked on a scale of 1-10.

“That was about a five, coach,” Shipp said, as retold by Hanners.

Five?!

“No one was shooting at us,” Ship said.

Hanners said he was on a flight with Brown after that, and Brown asked the flight attendant what to expect in terms of turbulence.

“It’s not going to be worse than a five,” she said.

“Larry would jump right out of his seat and run off the plane,” Hanners said. “‘I’m not getting on that son of a bitch. I’m not flying today. I’ll take a train. I’m not getting on that plane.’ I had to tell him, ‘Coach, her five isn’t Chuck’s five.’”

After that, playing the Lakers was a breeze.

-Dan Feldman

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