Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers: 2004 NBA Finals by the numbers
Larry Brown vs. Phil Jackson
Edge: Larry Brown
This one wasn’t even close, as Brown coached circles around Phil Jackson, who could never figure out the Pistons’ defense and was unable to generate much offense even though he had the two best offensive players in the series. I know this is heresy, but I always felt Phil Jackson got a little too much credit as a coach, as he was mostly gifted with rosters that had the two best players in the league on them. He won and there is no taking that away, but I have to believe a lot of coaches could have won with Michael, Scottie, Shaq and Kobe. No offense to Jackson, he still got all those rings and someone had to hand out all of those inspirational books.
Shaquille O’Neal vs. Ben Wallace
Look, Shaq was pretty much unstoppable at this point in his career, but Ben Wallace did about as well as anyone to slow him down. Shaq still averaged 26 and 10 in this series, though Wallace handily won the rebounding battle and added 1.8 steals and a block per game. If you actually watched this series, it was clear that the Pistons’ strategy was to make things difficult for Shaq and make everyone else beat them. It worked, as Shaq had some big games, but the Pistons shut down pretty much everyone else.