Detroit Pistons: Revisiting Ben Wallace’s best game

Ben Wallace (L) Darvin Ham (C) and Lindsey Hunter (R) of the Detroit Pistons (JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
Ben Wallace (L) Darvin Ham (C) and Lindsey Hunter (R) of the Detroit Pistons (JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images) /

The 2004 NBA Finals are memorable for a multitude of reasons. Most notably for the elevated level of defense by the Detroit Pistons.

When talking about the Detroit Pistons 2004 NBA Finals run, their defensive efforts are the first thing to come to mind. A unit lead by Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace was too much for any team to overcome.

As the years go by Chauncey Billups remains the most beloved player from that championship team, but Ben’s close to the fans hearts as well. He never had the glory of scoring game-winning baskets on the same level as Billups, but he always had his moments.

So when you think about what his best performance was, game seven of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals comes to mind. Wallace hit 8 of his first 9 shots and was even knocking down several jump shots.

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In a series that the Pistons came dangerously close to losing, Wallace’s 18 point and 8 rebound heroics sealed the deal in a blowout victory over the Nets.

Then you think forward to game three of the Finals. The world was expecting that Shaq would put on an offensive clinic against Detroit, but then came the opposite. In game three, Wallace’s defense held Shaq to just 14 points on 50 percent shooting.

Wallace’s tenacity on the boards and his impeccable footwork on defense kept Shaq from making shots even three feet away from the rim.

He was denying ball entries and was visibly frustrating Shaq.

Ben wasn’t exactly cooking on offense, scoring just 7 points on 33 percent shooting, but he did grab 11 rebounds, and he did what he needed to do. He stopped Shaq.

Not only that but Tayshaun Prince was able to slow down Kobe Bryant, holding him to just 11 points on 30.8 percent shooting. Detroit held the Lakers to 68 points.

Wallace’s best game as a Detroit Piston came in game five of the Finals. Maybe statistically it wasn’t his best, but there was never a moment in his entire career where his presence was more meaningful and more impactful.

At this point in the series, the Pistons made it clear that they were the team to beat. That the media had gotten it all wrong. With just one win needed for Detroit’s third championship, Wallace delivered a massive performance with 18 points and 22 rebounds.

His first basket of the game set the tone. In a one on one match up against Shaq, Wallace put the ball on the floor, attacked his left side, and cruised right to the rim for an easy bucket.

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With 2:48 left in the opening quarter, Gary Payton attempts to enter the paint but is stripped by Wallace, who’s able to get the wide open dunk in transition. It’s at this point that the Pistons begin to establish momentum.

Ben’s body control at the rim throughout the playoffs that year was about as good as it had ever been or would ever end up being. He was so still when he was in the air and it allowed him to fight through tough finishes time after time.

By halftime he had recorded 11 points and 5 rebounds on a perfect 5 for 5 shooting.

With just over 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter the Pistons had established a sound lead at 67-55. If the nail wasn’t already in the coffin, it was about to be.

Billups drives to his right side and is met by Shaq at the rim. He puts up the floater which rims off, but Wallace is right there, jumping out of the sky, for the put back dunk.

That was it for the Lakers. Beyond that point it was an avalanche of defensive stops and tough makes by Detroit. Ben Wallace played arguably the best game he’s ever played in the most crucial moment imaginable.

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