Retro Rewind: Pistons dominate Lakers in 2004 Finals Game 5

Detroit Pistons Ben Wallace. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Ben Wallace. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Detroit Pistons, Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince #22 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Kent Horner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Game Summary

Despite knowing how the game ended, first couple quarters were quite a rollercoaster. Within the first 15 seconds of the game, the Pistons forced a turnover. This was followed by the classic “Deee-troit Basketball” eruption from Pistons beloved public address announcer John Mason. The Palace was rocking early on.

There was a buzz in the building – it could easily be heard on the broadcast. The game was called by Al Michaels and Doc Rivers, who was hired by the Boston Celtics during the Finals (just a funny connection as the Pistons would clash with them in just a couple of years).

Stuart Scott served as the sideline reporter. This was a fantastic crew.

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The Lakers got off to a hot start in the first quarter, but not by the work of the stars. Slava Medvendenko, believe or not, was rolling early. Most of the Pistons offense Big Ben and Billups high ball screens and Rip Hamilton running a million back-cuts and down screens.

The Pistons did a fantastic job guarding Shaq and Kobe early on. Kobe was primarily guarded by Prince, but was swarmed by multiple players on every drive. The Pistons seemed content with Big Ben guarding Shaq one on one. After the 1st Quarter, the Pistons found themselves up 25-24.

In the 2nd, the Pistons stayed on the attack. The Lakers were clearly already worn out and committing foul after foul. Midway through the quarter, the Pistons were shooting 58 percent from the field. The Pistons’ bench mob was getting any shot they want, specifically Mehmet Okur. At halftime, the score was 55-45 in favor of Detroit.

Starting in the 3rd Quarter, Rasheed hits an early three. In the ensuing couple of minutes, it seemed evident that the Lakers were willing to ride Shaq and Kobe as long as they could.

This created for a huge mismatch on the defensive end though – Shaq just couldn’t slow down Big Ben. Every rebound went his way.

As a big believer in momentum, this is where the game completely got away from the Lakers. Most of the players in purple and gold have their hands on their knees every chance they get.

This is the play sequence that finally broke them: Wallace tip dunk, Lakers turnover, Billups And-1, Wallace goaltend block.

Both announcers pointed out that Big Ben possibly volleyball spiked the ball into the crowd knowing it would be a goal tend. I wholeheartedly agree, and it seems so did 25,000 fans at the Palace.

With the score at 82-59 after 3 quarters, most of the last quarter in just filled with anticipation. Al Michaels says, “It’s almost like the party has started with 10 minutes left in the game”.

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The last 10 minutes can also serve as study in body language and facial expressions. The Lakers looked completely spent. The Pistons swagger was through the roof. With 4:30 left to play, the Pistons were up 28 points. Unbelievable.

Al Michaels brings out another quotable – “Hockeytown, USA is going to become Hoopstown, USA in just a couple of minutes”. The building is going absolutely nuts.

The clock ticks down and hits zero. Celebration ensues. Watch for yourself:

With a final score of 100-87, the Pistons knocked off the Lakers in just 5 games to become the 2004 NBA Champions. This outcome was never in doubt.