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Champions! Pistons top Lakers, 4-1, in 2004 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.

Los Angeles Lakers 87 Final Recap | Box Score 100 Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups, PG 33 MIN | 3-5 FG | 8-8 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTSThis wasn’t Billups best game of the series, so his grade may disproportionately reflect his work over all five. But Billups averaged 21 points per game on an absurd 69.6% true shooting percentage.To put that in perspective, the next best was Shaq’s distant 61.5%. And Billups significantly bested his regular season stats that make him a perennial top contender for MVP. Next best was Rasheed’S 53.3%. In other words, Billups was a prolific and supremely efficient scorer for a team that really needed someone to step up on that side of the floor.
Richard Hamilton, SG 45 MIN | 6-18 FG | 9-11 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 21 PTSIf you don’t look at percentages, Rip actually one-upped Chauncey in the Finals. He edged Billups by two points over the series and averaged five rebounds and four assists to Chauncey’s three and five respectively.Obviously, it would be silly to ignore efficiency, but it was still a very good series for the Piston who has been most consistent all postseason. Hamilton averaged 21.5 points per game for the Pistons this postseason – points that were often very sorely needed. And he only had two games under 15 and two over 30.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 38 MIN | 6-15 FG | 5-8 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTSKobe’s putrid 38% field goals and 46% true shooting (in a season in which he posted 44% and 55% respectively) is testament enough to Prince’s value. Game 5 was no exception. Bryant shot 7-21 on the night. While he did redeem the latter number a bit with 11 free throws, it was still, at best, a mediocre game for him. But Prince put on his best offensive game of the series in its finale, salvaging his averages up to a respectable 10 and 7.

Rasheed Wallace, PF 21 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTSRasheed had too much foul trouble to make a huge impact in this game. But his dominance of Karl Malone, who should have been at least his equal, has been one of the most notable matchup wins for the Pistons all series.In the regular season, Sheed averaged 16 and 7 on 44% shooting (51% TS). Malone did 13 and 9 on 48% shooting (55% TS).
In the Finals, Sheed was par for the course with 13 and 8 on 45% shooting (53% TS). But he held Malone to 5 and 7 on 33% shooting (37% TS).

Ben Wallace, C 42 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-6 FT | 22 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTSBen struggled mightily with Shaq in this series. But he dominated him in the last game, very nearly matching his scoring output and just about tripling his work on the boards.Ben Wallace is the Pistons’ best player in general. But in this game, he was hands down the best player on the floor for either team. And that’s with two opponents who are superstar first ballot HOFs in the peaks of their primes.
Corliss Williamson, PF 14 MIN | 1-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTSWilliamson scored just four points per game, but he led all Detroit subs and those points were very helpful in the series’ closer games as the Lakers’ bench outscored the Pistons’ 93-73.

Lindsey Hunter, PG 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTSHunter contributed little offensively in the series, but his defense was excellent. He was part of the reason Gary Payton and Derek Fisher combined to shoot 31% (39% TS).
Mike James, PG 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSLike Hunter, James played excellent defense. But he was only on the floor for 22 minutes all series and I don’t think he had a significant positive or negative impact.  
Darvin Ham, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTSI hate to give an "incomplete" in the finale, but Ham just didn’t make a strong on-court impact in Game 5.  
Elden Campbell, C 14 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTSCampbell got a lot more burn in this series, trying to contain Shaq, than he did in any other. His success was pretty hit or miss, but he was still necessary. Because Ben had to come out sometimes and nobody else besides Sheed could have even had a prayer in that assignment. And I don’t believe Sheed would have dominated Malone nearly so much if he were struggling with O’Neal for ten minutes each game.  
Darko Milicic, C 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTSHe was nothing more than a victory cigar. But, in a way, that made seeing Milicic out there even better. It meant the Pistons won.  
Larry Brown, Head Coach
The Pistons entered as heavy underdogs and have outplayed the Lakers in virtually every facet of the game all series. The Lakers were never able to outplay the Pistons for 48 minutes, and only once in overtime.

And the Pistons did it their way: with masterful defense. Outside Shaq, LA shot a measly 35%. That’ll happen for a game here or there, but a whole series? That’s really impressive defense by Detroit.

Brown made a bold choice in consistently guarding O’Neal with just one man. It was risky as Shaq could and did make them pay repeatedly for the decision. But it also meant the rest of the Lakers didn’t have the mismatches they were used to. As it turned out, that was a very favorable trade-off for Detroit.

-Tim Thielke

From the Frontlines

The final buzzer in Game 5 kicked off a wild celebration that included incredible moments – both in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

Chauncey Billups – on his fifth team in his seven-year career – was named NBA Finals MVP, a much-deserved honor for a player who exemplified the Pistons’ fighting spirit.

“It was just validation to me,” Billups said. “I always felt that I could be a leader and a winner and one of the top players at my position in the league. Obviously, it took me a while, but that was me saying I knew I was right, and everybody else was wrong.”

Meanwhile, assistant coach Dave Hanners was wondering how to digest everything when he felt a tug at his pants leg. It was Pistons owner Bill Davidson, and they sat down behind the celebration and talked for a few minutes.

“This is a dream come true,” Hanners recalled Davidson saying. “I knew this team could do this. I knew Larry could get this done. You guys deserve this.”

And then, out of the blue, Davidson said, “How about Arnie?” The Pistons received credit for all their players producing, but even the contributions of strength coach Arnie Kander weren’t overlooked. This was a real organizational victory.

All around the scene, Pistons fans cheered. The Bad Boys won both their titles on the road, so this was the Pistons’ first championship clincher at home.

That made the celebration especially meaningful to Darvin Ham, the Pistons’ only Michigan native.

“To do it in a place like that, to do it against the L.A. Lakers – a high-profile group of guys – on paper, you look at Karl Malone, Gary Payton and the fab four including the current superstar status that was held by Kobe, Shaq, Phil Jackson and all that – it was like a David-and-Goliath story,” Ham said. “But at the same time, we knew why we were playing. We knew it was one of those things where we knew what we represented.”

“We represented the heart and soul of Detroit. We really did. The city and the community and those people . You look at the history of Detroit – the city has been looked over, stepped on, forgotten about. Not according to me, but according to our country’s history. Arguably, credit that city for being the birth place of the middle class with auto-industry jobs and in World War II those plants there. The industrialization of modern America, Detroit is one of the hubs or headquarters of that. The hard-work mantra and ‘Goin’ to Work’ mantra, blue collar – we represented that.”

-Dan Feldman

Up Next

So, what’s next?

The Pistons reached the pinnacle and damn it felt good, didn’t it? They topped the Lakers, making it that much better.

But what’s next? How about one more NBA Finals — albeit gut-punch loss to the Spurs — and then three more appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals?

Sounds good, right? I’m by going to remind you of what came after that because we’re currently still living it.

It’s unquestionable that this title, combined with the six-straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, were one of the league’s great runs in recent history.

It was also a run that left everyone wanting more. They were good enough to win another title, right?

You can that among yourselves, but one thing you cannot debate was how great the 2004 title run was.

And how it’s crazy it is that it happened 10 years ago.

-Brady Fredericksen

Tags: Arnie Kander Ben Wallace Bill Davidson Chauncey Billups Corliss Williamson Darko Milicic Dave Hanners Elden Campbell Larry Brown Lindsey Hunter Mike James Rasheed Wallace Richard Hamilton Tayshaun Prince

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