By Brad Friedman

Experience. It's something a team can't be taught. It only comes with time. The Detroit Pistons have that experience. They are the well-oiled machine that claimed the No. 1 seed in the East.

It all can be traced to February 2004, when Rasheed Wallace was acquired in trade-deadline swap with Atlanta. Since then, Detroit’s current starting five – composed of Wallace, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups -- has been a model of consistency, playing 160 regular-season games and 48 playoff games together.

The group has a .776 winning percentage together in the regular season and playoffs, and have a 48-game playoff résumé that includes an NBA Championship in 2004 and a NBA Finals appearance in 2005. Is it any wonder many have pegged them for their third straight Finals trip?

The Pistons' core is hoping to make another Finals appearance.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
"Our personnel hasn't really changed," Ben Wallace said in the Detroit News. "I know it sounds like a broken record, but we have a great group of guys who are passionate about the game, love and respect the game and love and respect each other.

"When you get that, good things happen."

The scary part is the Pistons are getting better. Once considered a "grind it out," defensive-oriented team, the hiring of Flip Saunders, who took over for Larry Brown as head coach last summer, has brought the Pistons a greater focus on the offensive end. On their way to a franchise record 64 wins, they saw their numbers increase across the board: points per game (93.3 to 97.0), field goal percentage (.444 to .455), assists (21.8 to 24.1 – 2nd in the NBA) and three-point percentage (.345 to .385 - 2nd in the NBA).

The defense is still there, too. Only two squads in the league yielded fewer points per game this season. When your five starters set an NBA record for consecutive starts in a row within a season (73), things are going to click.

Miami and New Jersey figure to put up strong bids for Finals appearances out of the East, but make no mistake, the road to the Finals almost certainly will travel through Detroit.

And if that series hits Motown again, it will only further drive home the point that experience counts for something.