Detroit wins series 4-1 (Game 1 of 5)

Detroit wins series 4-1

Game 1: Sunday, June 6th
Game 2: Tuesday, June 8th
Game 3: Thursday, June 10th
Game 4: Sunday, June 13th
Game 5: Tuesday, June 15th

Pistons 87

(54-28, 23-18 away)

Lakers 75

(56-26, 34-7 home)

6:00 PM ET, June 6, 2004

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

1 2 3 4 T
DET 22 18 24 2387
LAL 19 22 17 1775

Top Performers

Det: C. Billups 22 Pts, 3 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Stl

LAL: S. O'Neal 34 Pts, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

Detroit takes advantage of indifferent Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- While the Lakers stumbled and strained through the second half of their first home loss in the playoffs, a few scattered cries eventually grew to a small chorus from the flummoxed crowd.

"Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!"

That's easier shouted than done against the Pistons' stifling defense -- and the Lakers have a whole new respect for the bruising Eastern Conference champions after Detroit's 87-75 victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.

"I don't know if we could ever defend better," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "We contested shots. We did an unbelievable job, and I think that's what it's going to take."

Kobe Bryant heard the chants, firing up 27 shots of mostly dubious quality while scoring 25 points. But though Shaquille O'Neal went 13-for-16 on the way to 34 points, he didn't get the ball nearly enough in the second half.

"That's a good team, and we have to rise up and meet that challenge," O'Neal said. "We know that now."

The Lakers' struggles also sparked another mini-controversy in a season chock-full of them. Coach Phil Jackson said he thought O'Neal looked tired in the second half.

"Tired of waiting," O'Neal responded. "I don't think a person going 13-for-16 is a sign of being tired by any means."

Chauncey Billups scored 22 points for the Pistons, who weren't much better on offense than the Lakers. But Rasheed Wallace scored six of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Detroit poured its energy into a defense that kept the ball away from O'Neal.

Though the Pistons have exactly six games of NBA Finals experience on their roster, they were not intimidated by the Lakers' star-packed crowd or the nine championship banners on the arena wall. They still believe they're tough enough to end the West's streak of five straight series victories in the NBA Finals.

"We're never scared," said playoff scoring leader Richard Hamilton, who had just 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting. "We're going to go out there and have each other's back."

Only an incredible defensive team could shut down the Lakers, and the Pistons certainly put another chokehold on another powerful opponent. They blanketed Los Angeles on nearly every possession, forcing difficult passes and tougher shots by the sheer force of their athleticism.

Shaq scored nearly every time he got the ball low in the paint, but the Pistons attacked Los Angeles' entry passes and also forced O'Neal to commit six turnovers. He got just eight shots in the second half, while Bryant missed 10 of his 15 -- and also clanged consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to kill the Lakers' last attempt at a rally.

O'Neal went 8-for-12 from the line, but didn't shoot a free throw in the second half as the Lakers failed to find him underneath. He still was angry after the game until getting a hug and a kiss from his wife and daughter on the way out of Staples Center.

The rest of the Lakers got no more than a handful of open looks. From Ben Wallace's dangerous presence in the middle to Billups' harassment of Gary Payton and Derek Fisher, the Pistons were all over the Lakers.

By the final possession, the Lakers didn't even try: Payton dribbled out the final 10 seconds of his first finals game since 1996 with pure disgust on his face.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night, with Game 3 in Auburn Hills on Thursday night.

"It's a seven-game series, and there's always Tuesday," Bryant said.

Payton and Karl Malone , the Lakers' ringless duo, both went scoreless in the first half. Malone had the worst playoff game of his 19-season career, scoring four points on 2-of-9 shooting, and Payton -- who had three points -- bettered his career playoff-low by one point.

"Four points is terrible," Malone said. "My little boy can do that."

None of the Lakers' supporting cast scored more than five points, while eight Pistons got at least that many. Except for Hamilton's shooting struggles against the defense of childhood rival Bryant, the game was almost ideal Detroit basketball.

"It's unbelievable the feeling we have right now, but there's no way we can dwell on it," Billups said. "We have to come in [Monday] and start worrying about Game 2."

Game notes

The Lakers were held under 80 points for the fifth time in the postseason -- and it wasn't even their worst offensive game. Los Angeles scored a franchise-worst 71 points while losing Game 2 of the conference finals in Minnesota. ... The Lakers wore their Sunday-only white uniforms in the finals for the first time. ... Kareem Rush, the hero of Los Angeles' series-clinching victory over Minnesota last week, was scoreless in 16 minutes. Fisher was 1-for-9.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 87 75
FGM-FGA 30-65 (.462) 29-73 (.397)
3PM-3PA 6-12 (.500) 3-13 (.231)
FTM-FTA 21-30 (.700) 14-18 (.778)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-36 13-37
Assists 19 15
Turnovers 14 16
Steals 9 8
Blocks 4 4
Fast Break Points 4 2
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 17 (0/0) 25 (0/0)

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Chauncey Billups Billups
Points: 22
Reb: 3
Ast: 4
Stl: 3
Blk: 0
Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
Points: 34
Reb: 11
Ast: 1
Stl: 0
Blk: 1