With Tayshaun Prince’s recent trade to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Detroit Pistons-Los Angeles Lakers game today, Space City Scoop wants to reflect upon the Detroit Pistons core that competed for the NBA Playoffs in the 2000s.
After the sweep by the Miami Heat in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, the recently retired Detroit legend player Joe Dumars was assigned Pistons Head of Basketball Operations. After other Detroit legend, injury prone Grant Hill decided to leave the team for the Orlando Magic, Dumars made a deal that sent future All-Star Ben Wallace to Detroit. The Detroit Pistons drafted University of Kentucky graduate Tayshaun Prince, obtained Richard “Rip” Hamilton from the Washington Wizards and signed free agent Chauncey Billups. Under famous coach Rick Carlisle, the Detroit Pistons improved from 32-50 to 50-32, winning the Central Division. Eventually, they would advance to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals where they faced Jason Kidd’s New Jersey Nets. Ben Wallace averaged the highest rebounds per post-season game. And then in February 2004, Rasheed Wallace joined the Detroit Pistons combining together what was Detroit’s finest starting lineup of the 2000s.
In the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Pistons faced off against defending Eastern Conference champions, the New Jersey Nets. They fought all 7 games, which had obvious winners with the exception of the triple overtime Game 5 in New Jersey and the regulation Game 6 in Detroit.
The 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons season was one of the most memorable in history. Everybody was talking about Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown over the coaching choices of the Detroit Pistons, much like that of Phil Jackson and Mike D’antoni now. It made the Eastern Conference Finals all the more interesting when the rumored coach change became the actual team the Detroit Pistons would be facing off against in the Eastern Conference Finals! The first 3 games would be hard fought close battles with Detroit gaining the upperhand 2 to 1. After the Pacers and Pistons would exchange decisive road wins, Detroit would win a hard fought Game 6 on their home ground, 69-65.
There was also a bit of “Gary Payton (this)” and “Karl Malone (that).” In addition to the rise of the Detroit Pistons, there was not the downfall of the Los Angeles Lakers, thanks to the fallout between Shaq and Kobe. The team barely reached the 56-26 record that won them the Pacific Division of the Western Conference with a record over that of the Detroit Pistons’ 54-28. They had managed to defeat both the still tough Tim Duncan-Gregg Poppovich San Antonio Spurs at the Western Conference Semifinals and the Western Conference leaders’ Kevin Garnett-Latrell Sprewell-Sam Cassell Minnesota Timberwolves at the Western Conference Finals.
From there, all they had to do was defeat the minor starless Detroit Pistons.
The Detroit Pistons came prepared with a dominant defensive performance against leaderless Lakers in Game 1. In Game 2, the Lakers would come back thanks to a Kobe Bryant 3-pointer at the buzzer tying the game; the Lakers would eventually win 10-2 in overtime. At game 3 in the Palace at Auburn Hills, Detroit would display a defensive clinic against the Lakers in their first NBA Final meeting here since 1989 beating them 88-68, making them a laughing stock for their supposed great offense. In Game 4, Karl Malone reinjured his knee; Kobe Bryant scored 20 points, but shot 36% from the field. Game 5, history was made and the Detroit Piston ended the Kobe-Shaq-Jackson Lakers reign of NBA Playoffs history.
The 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons became the first team to put five consecutive teams to under 70 points.
The Pistons would reach the NBA Finals again against the this time defensive San Antonio Spurs. They would then lose in 2006 to the Wade-O’Neal-Payton Miami Heat after Ben Wallace signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls before being replaced by Chris Webber. 2007 they would lose to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and 2008 to the Boston Celtics, always losing to the team that would eventually become champion. The Detroit Pistons would essentially be the Scotty Pippens of the NBA emphasizing defense and being considered second place to other teams.
They would finally disband in 2008… Just like your favorite bands. The Monkees.. The Beatles… The Twin Towers, Hakeem, T-Mac, Yao Ming….