Pistons' pressure D dominates

Updated: June 7, 2004, 4:50 AM ET
By Dr. Jack Ramsay | Special to ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Detroit Pistons 87-75 Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers was a surprising start to this seven-game series. I didn't expect Detroit to put together so much offense, and score so many points.

But on Sunday night, the Pistons exhibited impressive offensive balance, atypical for this squad. They were patient and showed great player and ball movement. They seemed to get the shots they wanted, and had good distribution, with four of five starters scoring in double-digits.

Conversely, I expected more from the Lakers' offense overall. I thought they would better handle the Pistons' defensive pressure.

Defensively, the Pistons were amazing; challenging every dribble, pass and shot. Even when helping with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, they recovered quickly and got to open shooters. They also exerted backcourt pressure, which forced the Lakers to use time off the shot clock and kept them from establishing a rhythm.

Usually, when the Lakers are faced with pressure in the backcourt, the big guys come up higher to receive outlet passes and they get the ball up-and-in without as much trouble. That's something they'll need to get going in Game 2.

The Lakers will also need to spread the ball around and get more players involved. In Game 1, Shaq had an impressive 34-point game and Kobe scored 25 points, but because he was challenged so hard, Kobe didn't shoot for good percentage. And everyone else just came up empty.

After going 0-for-5 early on, Karl Malone stopped looking for shots and finished the game sinking only 2-of-9 baskets. Similarly, Gary Payton and Derek Fisher never got their game on track and finished with only three and two points, respectively. Looking ahead, the Lakers will certainly need to get more contributions from everyone.

Typically the Lakers should win games when the opponent scores 87 points. In Game 2, they'll need to get their offense going by spreading the ball around, handling the pressure and outletting the ball more quickly from the backcourt to the frontcourt.

Meanwhile the Pistons need to stick with their game plan, keep moving the ball around and continue to play excellent team defense. There's an old coaching axiom: Your offense may vary, but if your defense shows up every night, you'll be all right.

Dr. Jack Ramsay, an NBA analyst for ESPN, coached the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Legendary coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay serves as lead game analyst for The NBA on ESPN Radio and provides analysis for ESPN's SportsCenter and ESPN2's NBA FastBreak. He also contributes to ESPN.com and ESPN The Mag.

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