Sunday, June 06, 2004

NBA FINALS, GAME ONE: Heck of a game, eh? If you're a Laker hater, that is. Granted, it's only Game One, so I can't crow too much, and the Lakers traditionally make adjustments after losses and win four in a row and blah blah blah blah blah. Still, the Pistons did pretty much control that game. The Lakers tried to step up and do their arm-flailing hustle defense in the third and fourth quarters, but it was to no avail.

The Pistons game plan is ridiculously simple: cover Shaq and Kobe as well as you can, but do not--absolutely do not let the rest of the Lakers beat you. There was like, what, two open threes for the Lakers, one for George and one for Rush? Fisher never had an open shot. The Pistons just throttled the Lakers bench and that was it.

I don't want to hear any comparisons to the last time a Larry Brown team beat the Lakers in the first game of the championship, the Sixers in 2000. That was a completely different game between completely different teams. The Lakers were unstoppable that year, and the Sixers pulled off a gritty, gutty, Iversony, Rockyesque, Philadelphia-like victory against all odds. It took an overtime to do it and the outcome was always in doubt. The Pistons had control of this one; they did what they had to do and a little more and they won by quite a bit.

I think those nine points from Ben Wallace were probably the main margin of difference in this game. It's merely obvious that Ben looks ridiculous around the rim, so every open jumper he makes is like free points.

I'm really glad that the little Phil Jackson tricks didn't work. Like rolling out the Medvedenko/Rush/Fisher scrub team when the starters weren't getting it done, who usually play the Lakers back into the game when that trick works. But it didn't. His psychological tricks aren't going to work against the Pistons--this team seems a little bit too well coached to slack off against the scrubs. Any psychological tricks will have to involve goading Shaq and Kobe into a championship-level effort. Which he will have to do. Remember what Bill Simmons said about being appalled at how the Lakers were unprepared for the Spurs? This looked like the same kind of thing here, and only a lucky Derek Fisher shot saved them that time.

Anyway, the ESPN News talking heads just said something about how in 1991 and 2000 Phil Jackson teams lost their first games and then won the next four. So there you go. The Lakers lost. The Pistons won. Whatever.

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