Motown Obliterates Lakers
The Detroit Pistons just clinched the 2004 NBA Championship with a 100-87 rout of the LA Lakers in Game 5 of the series. Jack Nicholson, the actor fan of the Lakers who watched the game, must have been heartbroken. Mitch Albom, the Detroit Free Press sports' section columnist, described the victory as:
"They attacked all night, the way you attack a fire, the way you attack an enemy hill, no counting on luck, fate or chance, just sheer will and your own pounding lungs, drive the rim, drive the lane, until finally, the horn sounded to end their nine-month shift, which began in October and ended one week shy of summer. Rip Hamilton was jumping in place, a ball of energy. Mehmet Okur was hugging Tayshaun Prince. Ben Wallace took the spray paint and marked the last game with a big old "X." The team whose motto is "Goin' to Work" had put in a little overtime, and the once mighty Lakers hadn't just been defeated, they'd been stomped and crushed like Italian grapes. The Pistons didn't just beat L.A., they reduced it to a single letter: "L," as in loser. And as the music soared at the Palace the Pistons soared right with it." [Detroit Free Press]Game 5 was a history of sorts. It was Phil Jackson's first loss in all the Finals he played in. It is also the first time an NBA team swept all three middle games in the homecourt to win the champioship. This is also the Pistons first championship in 14 years!
Everybody loves a winner. Everybody hates the loser. Even the San Francisco Chronicle now calls the Lakers as "dysfunctional." Can you believe that? Years ago they were praising the Lakers to high heavens and now... It even went as far as concluding that the
"...Lakers were supposed to be one of the best teams ever assembled after adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton to go with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the end, they looked old and tired." [San Francisco Chronicle]The Lakers are now in limbo. Will it ever compete in the Finals again? Debatable, at this point. Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant might not return anymore. Besides, it might be true that they're all very tired now and just want to fade in the sunset after basking in glory for so long.
If I were to point the blame for losing to one person in the Lakers, it has to be Gary Payton.
If I were to point the credit for winning to one person in the Pistons, it has to be Rip Hamilton.
And I agree with the Washington Post analysis that the success of the Detroit Pistons awakened a "dormant, old-fangled concept back to the NBA: the idea that five good, persevering players competing as one, could overwhelm a roster of stars, even the most brilliant duo of their generation."