Early in the series, I wrote what the Lakers and the Pistons each needed to do to win. I think since we’re half way through the series I should revisit what I wrote:
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 all you chart fans, here’s one breaking down exactly what I wrote.
Name G1 G2 G3 G4 1a. -- Efficient Scoring -- Hamltn N Y Y Y 'Sheed Y N* N Y Billps Y Y Y Y Others Y N** Y N 1b. -- Shut Down non-Shaq Lakers -- Kobe N N Y Y Others Y Y Y Y 2. -- Stay Close In Turnovers -- TO Y Y Y Y *Game 2 Sheed 11PTS 5-14 - scoring but inefficient. ** Ben Wallace was 2nd best with 12 points in an OT game.
As for the Lakers:
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.
Name G1 G2 G3 G4 1. -- LA Scoring -- Shaq Y Y N Y Kobe Y Y N N** Malone N N N N Others N N N N 2. -- Create Turnovers -- TO N N N N 3. -- Get To the Foul Line -- FTA N N* N N *L.A. had 25 FTA, but Detroit had 31 ** Kobe had 20PTS but shot 8-25 (2 3PTM)
Look at all the Y’s in the Pistons’ table and the N’s in the Lakers table. It seems clear that Detroit is doing almost everything they can to win. It seemed that the Pistons’ biggest weakness would be scoring, since they don’t have the great scorers that the Lakers have in Shaq and Kobe. However, they’ve been able to get production from 4 guys: Hamilton, Billups, Rasheed, and Prince. They’ve won every game where they’ve gotten offensive production from at least 3 of these players.
On the other hand, the Lakers haven’t done anything they’ve needed to win. Their offense has been horrible. The Pistons have “let” Shaq score, but have tried to shut down everyone else. Kobe has been ineffective since game 2. I can’t blame Karl Malone, because he’s been hurt, but where are the rest of the Lakers?
During the regular season, Detroit turned the ball over often enough (20th in TO/Poss), and the Lakers were 7th in net turnovers. I expected the Lakers to have an advantage in Turnovers, but it has been a non-factor. The other place where I thought L.A. could make a difference would be to use Shaq to get the Pistons in foul trouble. My prediction was way off base here, since everyone knows by now that the Pistons are getting to the line while the Lakers are begging for calls.
This series hasn’t been close. What’s really amazing is if it weren’t for Kobe’s three point shot at the end of regulation in game 2, the Pistons would have swept the Lakers. In fact since that game, the non-Kobe & non-Shaq Lakers are 25-79 (7 3PTM – eFG% 36%). Detroit’s defense is just that good.