“Detroit needs to stop the rest of the gang, especially Kobe…The key for Detroit is to keep the games close. They can do that by keeping the non-Shaq Lakers from scoring, and getting good production out of Hamilton, Billups, & Rasheed.
The key for the Lakers is to score and put the pressure on Detroit. They need points out of someone other than Shaq & Kobe. Malone has done well enough (13PPG), despite facing two great defenders in Garnett and Duncan. Gary Payton has all but disappeared from the offense, scoring 8.8PPG in the playoffs. The Lakers need production from the rest of the gang, whether it be Fisher, George, or Rush. They’ll want to score points off of turnovers, while minimizing any damage the Pistons might cause on the offensive boards and at the free throw line.”
In game 1, Shaq scored 34 points, on 81% eFG while hitting 8 of 12 free throws. The Pistons didn’t stop Bryant, who had 25 points. Kobe did it on a less than efficient 39% eFG. Detroit couldn’t stop the Big two, but they did a great job on the rest of the team. The next best scorer was George with 5 points. Only 7 players scored for the Lakers, and if you take away Shaq & Kobe, the rest averaged 3.2 points with a 23% eFG! That’s just a tremendous effort. When you can reduce a team to just two players, you’re going to win the game.
I also wrote that Detroit needed good production out of Hamilton, Billups, and Rasheed. Hamilton looked bad at times, but still finished with a decent 12 points. Rasheed needed only 4 shots, but hit 3 of them (2 from beyond the arc), and hit all 6 of his free throws to net himself 14 points. Chauncey Billups really shined, by hitting open jumpers he had 22 points with a 64% efficiency field goal percentage.
In the other important areas of the game:
The Pistons had a slight edge in turnovers (15 to 14), but it was close enough to be even. This was suppose to be an edge for the Lakers.
Los Angeles had the advantage in offensive rebounding (33% to 20%), even though Detroit is usually better in this area.
The Pistons only sent three Lakers to the foul line: Shaq, Kobe, and Medvedenko. That was expected by the stat-heads, but I’m sure that Phil Jackson will point this out to the media sometime in this series try to get some calls go his way. I wonder how effective this is, since he seems to do it every year.
As they were announcing the lineups for Game 1 of the Finals, Al Michaels said that all the Lakers starters except Devean George were locks for the HOF. Now Kobe Bryant is a great player, but let’s hold off the HOF ceremonies for now. Just to get a sober reminder, number one on Kobe Bryant’s similarity scores is a player known as Grant Hill. A little further down the list is a former teammate of Shaq’s named Anfernee Hardaway. The only HOFer on Kobe’s list is David Thompson, who was out of the league before he turned 30. There are a lot of things that can happen to a promising young player that can derail a hall of fame career, especially one in the middle of a criminal investigation.
As I re-read my Finals preview column, I didn’t really get my views across a clearly as I wanted to. I want to make it more clear.
For Detroit to win, they should:
1. They can’t fall too far behind, which breaks up into:
1a. Score. They need efficient scoring from Hamilton, Billups, and Rasheed. If they can get an outburst from someone else (Prince), then all the better.
1b. Shut down the non-Shaq Lakers.
2. Stay close in turnovers.
For the Lakers to win, they should:
1. Score, and not just Shaq. Kobe, Malone, and one random Laker per game. It’d be nice if Gary Payton would actually do something to earn that ring. If not anyone will do: George, Fisher, Rush, or anyone. By scoring they’ll put the pressure on the Pistons to score as well. The Pistons weren’t a great offensive team, so shutting them down shouldn’t be all that hard.
2. Turn the heat on with turnovers. The Lakers were 7th in the league in net turnovers (per 100 possessions), so they should be able to get some extra points from the Pistons.
3. Get to the foul line, and not just Shaq. Shaq will make Detroit foul more often. Normally Detroit is very good at not putting opponents at the line. The Lakers need to use Shaq to gain an advantage here. The rest of the gang have to drive to the hoop & try to make things happen. After watching their performance in game 1, they can’t do any worse.