Detroit 100, L.A. Lakers 87
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 15 (Ticker) --
In one for the ages, the
Detroit Pistons are NBA champions. And they did it the right
The Pistons completed the biggest upset in NBA Finals history,
toppling the mighty but misguided Los Angeles Lakers with a
100-87 victory that was entirely emblematic of a team triumphing
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Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups hoisted some gold after Tuesday's Finals-clinching victory.
In front of a raucous and unrelenting sellout crowd at The
Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit closed out the series in five
games for its first title in 14 years, harkening back to the
days of the "Bad Boys."
"It's about players," said Pistons coach Larry Brown,
emotionally drained from winning his first title. "This sport
is about players playing the right way and showing kids that you
can be a team and be successful and it's great for our league."
Leading the way was Brown, the nomadic coach who fronted for a
group of cast-offs and convinced them that they could overcome
tremendous odds by playing "the right way." In his seventh NBA
stop, Brown finally broke through, becoming the first coach to
win championships on the pro and college levels.
"We did it, man," said Finals MVP Chauncey Billups
, who has
found a home with his seventh team. "We came into this series,
nobody gave us a chance, but we felt we had a great chance. ...
We knew as a team we just felt we were a better team."
"Chauncey's career is a lot like mine," Brown said. "I think I
might have been a couple more places than him, but he's still
been through a lot."
As time wound down, Brown emptied his bench, sending in rookie
, the "Human Victory Cigar." He put his face in
his hands and took a moment to himself, contemplating the
victory that completes his Hall of Fame career.
Brown's way begins with defense, the staple of "DEE-troit
BASS-ketball!" The Pistons limited the Lakers to an average of
81.8 points in the series, turning counterpart Phil Jackson's
vaunted triangle offense into a new, disfigured shape.
"They do play the right way, and I'm very proud of them," Brown
And while the Lakers leaned too hard on superstars
and Kobe Bryant
, the Pistons shared the ball and the
spotlight. In fact, Billups was named MVP despite having little
impact in the clincher.
"It's unbelievable,' Billups said. "Really, I'm just
Fittingly, Detroit's leading man was center Ben Wallace
baited O'Neal into early foul trouble from which Los Angeles
never recovered. A throw-in in the deal that saw Grant Hill
leave town four years ago, Wallace had 18 points and 22 rebounds
and displayed the hunger, determination and backbone that are
the trademarks of his team.
Detroit flashed a little offense, too, as all five starters were
in double figures. Richard Hamilton
scored 21 points.
, who harassed Bryant the whole series, added 17.
Billups contributed 14 and outscored Gary Payton
, 105-21, over
five games. And Rasheed Wallace
again overcame foul trouble to
"I never thought of this Piston ballclub as my team," said
Wallace, who was acquired in a trade in February and instantly
became Detroit's best all-around player. "It's a band of guys.
It's veteran guys. I think when you have veterans who are
hungry and are willing to sacrifice things to win, you don't
necessarily need to be a leader because everyone knew what they
have to do."
Bryant scored 24 points but was just 7-of-21 from the floor and
shot 38 percent for the series. By firing away at will, he
helped the Pistons neutralize the effectiveness of O'Neal, who
scored 20 points but made just 6-of-16 free throws.
When the series began, the Lakers were odds-on favorites to win
their fourth title in five years. But their dreams of a dynasty
died amid defense, dysfunction and dissension.
It also did not help that Karl Malone
was hobbled by a sprained
MCL for the entire series and sat out this one. His pursuit of
an elusive championship continues, as does Payton's.
"We missed (Malone) tonight, a lot, and we missed him through
this series," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who lost in the
Finals for the first time in 10 tries and remains tied with the
legendary Red Auerbach with nine titles.
The Pistons ended the five-year stranglehold the Lakers and San
Antonio Spurs had held on the league and became the first champ
from the East since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1998.
A quick start by LA was neutralized by two early fouls on
O'Neal, who took a seat midway through the period and watched
Detroit score eight straight points for a 15-14 lead.
Bryant was off the mark again, but his leakout dunk capped a 7-0
spurt and gave the Lakers a 31-30 lead. But with O'Neal not
defending with any activity, the Pistons attacked. The
previously invisible Mehmet Okur
and Ben Wallace
combined for 13
points in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the half to build the
advantage to 55-45.
"We got into quick foul trouble and then they just had us on
our heels from that point," O'Neal said. "I feel like we lost
our poise a little bit."
Two free throws by O'Neal had the Lakers within nine points
before the floodgates opened. Ben Wallace
controlling the defensive boards and putting home a follow dunk
for a 69-55 lead.
Billups had a three-point play, then sank a free throw as Devean George
was whistled for a technical foul. That began a parade
to the foul line capped by Prince's coast-to-coast layup,
closing the quarter and giving the Pistons an 82-59 lead.
Hamilton's driving layup made it 88-61 with 10:32 to play and
the celebration was under way.