The Detroit Pistons were supposed to be a mere road bump for the Lakers on their way to another title in the 2004 NBA Finals.
Someone forgot to tell the Pistons.
Anyone who has written about sports has made some bad predictions or had a few hot takes that went horribly awry.
I once said that Luke Kennard was going to be the next Manu Ginobili for the Detroit Pistons (oops). If you put your opinion out there, it is going to be wrong at times, but Chris Sheridan of the Associated Press (like most national writers at the time) couldn’t have been much more wrong about the Pistons vs. Lakers in 2004.
This is not a shot at Sheridan, who has had a long career as a sportswriter, as most people had similar takes about this series, his just happened to be immortalized in print.
It’s rare to be almost 100 percent wrong, but that’s exactly what happened in these head-to-head breakdowns.
Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers: 2004 NBA Finals by the numbers
The Lakers were given the edge all but two head-to-head matchups, as he had Tayshaun Prince even against Devean George (hahaha) and gave Chauncey Billups the edge over a washed Gary Payton.
Instead, the Pistons won just about all of these head-to-heads handily while throttling the Lakers four games to one and putting on one of the best displays of defense in NBA history in the process.
They held the mighty Lakers, who had a prime Shaq and Kobe to just 81.8 points per game for a a 96.1 offensive rating. They held all but two players under 40 percent shooting and the Lakers to 41.6 percent as a team. The only players to shoot over 40 percent were Shaq (63.1 percent) and Rick Fox, who took seven field goals attempts the entire series.
Offenses weren’t nearly as high scoring back then, but the Lakers averaged 96.1 ppg for the season, so Detroit was able to hold them to nearly 13 points below their average. The Pistons held the Laker to just 68 points in a blowout Game 3 win that made it clear who was going to win the series.
This series actually wasn’t as close as the 4-1 mark would indicate with Detroit winning just about every head-to-head matchup.