Final

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

Detroit wins series 4-1

Game 1: Sunday, June 6th
Pistons87Final
Lakers75
Game 2: Tuesday, June 8th
Pistons91Final
OT
Lakers99
Game 3: Thursday, June 10th
Lakers68Final
Pistons88
Game 4: Sunday, June 13th
Lakers80Final
Pistons88
Game 5: Tuesday, June 15th
Lakers87Final
Pistons100

Lakers 80

(56-26, 22-19 away)

Pistons 88

(54-28, 31-10 home)

9:00 PM ET, June 13, 2004

The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 22 17 17 2480
DET 21 20 15 3288

Top Performers

Los Angeles: S. O'Neal 36 Pts, 20 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk

Detroit: R. Wallace 26 Pts, 13 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

Detroit needs one more Finals answer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The better team won again. And yes, the Detroit Pistons are proving they are clearly the better team.

Poised and primed for a title, Detroit took care of business while the Lakers were losing their cool. Building a lead early in the fourth quarter and holding it the rest of the way, the Pistons moved one victory closer to their first championship in 14 years with a convincing 88-80 victory Sunday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

With a 3-1 lead, the surprising Pistons have made one thing crystal clear: They are the superior team, winning without egos and superstars -- and the problems that come with them.

Rasheed Wallace

AP

'Sheed repeatedly posted up and took it strong to the rack.

"They have got a coach who won nine championships," Detroit coach Larry Brown said. "They have got two of the greatest players that are in their prime, so we can't take anything for granted. That's the thing we're going to talk about."

These were some of the scenes Pistons fans will cherish: Chauncey Billups making timely 3-pointers, Rasheed Wallace backpedalling downcourt with a minute left after making a jumper that capped his best game of the playoffs; Richard Hamilton calmly knocking down free throws.

As for the Lakers, the snapshots were these: Kobe Bryant screaming at the referees and picking up a late technical foul; Shaquille O'Neal yelling at someone in the Lakers' huddle, most likely Bryant, after two particularly egregious shot selections; Karl Malone staying parked on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, a nonfactor again; Gary Payton getting toasted by Hamilton again.

It's almost over for these Lakers, their breakup possibly coming in the next week. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals, and the Lakers seem ill-equipped to become the first.

Game 5 is Tuesday night, and the Pistons -- heavy underdogs when the series began -- could become the first team to bring the title back to the Eastern Conference since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls won it in 1998.

"Well, a disappointing night tonight," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We got caught off-guard in the fourth quarter and were not able to handle the run they made in the fourth quarter sufficiently.

"Give credit to the Pistons."

Wallace scored 26, Billups had 23 and Hamilton 17 to lead Detroit, which outscored the Lakers 32-24 in the fourth quarter.

"We're just tough to play when we can get 'Sheed going like that," Billups said.

O'Neal had 36 and Bryant 20 for the Lakers, whose dysfunctional two-man show isn't enough to keep up with Detroit's depth and determination.

Kobe Bryant

AP

Kobe scored 20 but shot 32 percent from the field.

O'Neal took 21 shots and made 16, and he might have doubled those totals if his teammates had gotten him the ball more often. But Bryant somehow found it necessary to launch 14 attempts in the first half and 25 overall, many of which were both unwise and off-target.

No one else on the Lakers had more than eight points, and Los Angeles again was outrebounded and plagued by fouls.

"My shots, some of them were good and some of them stunk -- that's pretty much every game with me," Bryant said. "I think everyone's a little down right now."

Detroit made 29 field goals and 28 foul shots and scored 21 points on the fast break in what was the closest game of the series until the Pistons broke it open with a 7-0 run for a 77-67 lead with 4:52 left. The Lakers got no closer than seven the rest of the way as the Pistons made shots -- whether from the field or the foul line -- when they needed them.

"It was just my night," said Wallace, whose previous high in this postseason was 22. He shot 10-for-23 with 13 rebounds and two blocks, while Billups shot 7-for-12 and Billups was 5-for-11.

None of those lines was anything spectacular, and that was fitting for a team that gets the job done efficiently if not beautifully.

"We can play with this team," insisted O'Neal. "We haven't played well yet or shown it yet.

"It's a big challenge for us, and the stage is set," O'Neal said. "The pressure is on them, they have to close us out."

It was widely expected that Jackson would change his starting lineup or rotations, especially after five of the Lakers' veterans -- O'Neal, Bryant, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher and Devean George -- had an off-day conference with Jackson in a restroom at The Palace, pleading with him to put his trust in them since they know his triangle offense best. But Jackson went with his usual starting five.

Though the Lakers botched their first couple of possessions, they quickly began getting the ball to O'Neal deep in the low post. His first two shots were dunks, his next two were 5-footers from either side of the basket, and the fifth was an alley-oop dunk. O'Neal went 5-for-5 in a first quarter that ended with the Lakers ahead 22-21.

After missing a shot, O'Neal hit his next two midway through the second quarter and yelled "Try to stop that!" to no one in particular with an animated expression on his face. The pace of the quarter was slow thanks to 16 fouls before Mike James took control and ran two fast breaks by himself, converting both times to help Detroit to a 41-39 halftime lead.

Wallace began to carry the Pistons in the third quarter, dominating his matchup with Slava Medvedenko after Malone left the game. A late 6-0 run by the Lakers, ending with a steal and dunk by Bryant, produced a 56-56 deadlock entering the final period.

Hamilton hit two jumpers to open the fourth quarter, Ben Wallace rebounded his own missed free throw and banked it in for a 65-60 lead, and a 3 by Billups made it 70-64 with 6:20 left

After the Lakers got within three, Billups hit another 3-pointer to start the game-deciding 7-0 run.

"I told them how proud I was," coach Larry Brown said. "But no matter how you look at it, you've got to win four games in the series."

Game notes


For the fourth straight game, O'Neal was called for a jump ball violation on the opening tip. ... Rasheed Wallace got his first technical foul of the series and second of the postseason for jawing at Medvedenko after fouling him in the third quarter. Medvedenko also got a tech on the play. ... Recording artist Kid Rock sang an a cappella rendition of America The Beautiful, and yes, he did remove his hat.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
LAL
DET
Points 80 88
FGM-FGA 33-78 (.423) 29-68 (.426)
3PM-3PA 3-16 (.188) 2-13 (.154)
FTM-FTA 11-22 (.500) 28-41 (.683)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-38 9-45
Assists 23 16
Turnovers 10 13
Steals 4 5
Blocks 1 4
Fast Break Points 2 9
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 35 (3/0) 20 (1/0)

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Detroit
Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
Points: 36
Reb: 20
Ast: 2
Stl: 0
Blk: 1
Rasheed Wallace Wallace
Points: 26
Reb: 13
Ast: 2
Stl: 2
Blk: 2