Detroit point guard goes 8-of-14 from field

Originally Published: June 6, 2004
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- There's something about the Los Angeles Lakers that seems to bring out the best in Chauncey Billups.

Detroit's point guard scored 22 points to lead the Pistons to an 87-75 win over the Lakers on Sunday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Billups went 8-of-14 from the field, made all four of his free throws and had four assists and three steals.

He scored many of his points on pick-and-roll plays as the Lakers scrambled to defend Detroit's balanced attack. Eight Pistons scored at least five points, while the Lakers had just three with five or more.

"When I come off the pick and nobody's there, I look to shoot and more times than not, I'm going to make that shot," Billups said.

Billups said if teams choose to trap him, he simply looks to pass.

"It's pick your poison," he said.

The Pistons are in the finals for the first time since 1990, when they won their second straight title, and Pistons coach Larry Brown credited Billups with getting them there.

"We would not be here if it wasn't for him," Brown said.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

In two regular-season meetings this season, Billups scored a combined 53 points -- 33 more than any of his teammates -- on 53.1 percent shooting.

"I don't know what it is about Chauncey and the Lakers, but whatever it is, I hope he can continue it," teammate Corliss Williamson said.

It was clear from the start he was going to have another strong game against Los Angles, which is going for its fourth title in five years.

In the first quarter, Billups didn't miss a shot or a free throw, and his eight points helped Detroit take a 22-19 lead.

"Chauncey came out aggressive for us, and really shouldered the load early in the game when I think everybody was a little bit nervous," Detroit's Ben Wallace said. "Chauncey took it upon himself to go out and make things happen."

He did it again when the Pistons took control of the game with a 24-point third, scoring nine points in the quarter.

After the Lakers pulled within seven with just under three minutes left in the game, Billups quieted the crowd with a jumper.

"He seemed to handle the pressure well," Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

Gary Payton had trouble staying with Billups, just as he did in the regular season.

Payton was called for a fifth foul in the third quarter, and finished with just three points. His backup, Derek Fisher, didn't fare much better against Billups on defense, or offense, with just two points.

The Pistons were the first team to beat the Lakers on their home court during the playoffs, and prevented them from tying an NBA playoff record with 10 straight wins at home in one postseason.

Since 1984, the winner of Game 1 in the NBA Finals has ended up losing the series just six times. The Lakers were one of the teams to overcome a series-opening setback in 2001, when they beat the Brown-led Philadelphia 76ers.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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