Coming into the NBA Finals, it was a near-universal given that the Lakers would obliterate the Pistons, with only a few die-hard Detroit fans and contrarian writers daring to state otherwise. To everyone’s surprise, though, the Pistons positively owned the Lakers throughout the series, with the exception of a ten-minute lapse that allowed L.A. to steal Game 2. Detroit finally put the Lakers out of their ever-increasing misery tonight, winning Game 5 and the championship, 100-87.


Detroit’s offense isn’t nearly as bad or as slow as their low scores would lead you to believe. They get the ball up the floor very quickly and move it well in the halfcourt, swinging it around, setting screens, and moving around off the ball as they work the shot clock down. Billups, Hamilton, and Prince are all notoriously streaky shooters, though — they’re very lucky to have had all three of them firing on all cylinders in this series. Add in Rasheed Wallace’s steady scoring (when he’s not in foul trouble) and 18 bonus points from Ben Wallace, and you have a team that managed to score a non-Eastern-Conference-like 100 points in Game 5.

The bread and butter of the Pistons’ game, of course, is their defense. Blessed with quick feet and long arms, most of their players would be pretty effective defenders in a one-on-one game. As a team, though, they’re absolutely terrifying, coming at opponents with perfectly executed traps and switches. At the center of their defense (and their offense) is Ben Wallace. His rebounding ability — getting into position, boxing out, leaping up, and controlling the ball — puts him right up there with Dennis Rodman among glasscleaners, but without Rodman’s bast attitude or cheap shots.

Given their defensive prowess, it’s not quite as surprising that they chose to play single, hack-less coverage on O’Neal, focusing instead on shutting down the rest of the Lakers’ offense and daring him to beat them single-handedly. Shaq’s a monster, but one-on-five isn’t going to win a series, no matter who the one is. Malone’s bad knee reduced him to a gimpy shadow of his former nasty self, and Payton spent the series… doing absolutely nothing. After the first two games, Bryant was cold from the floor, forcing up pressured jumpers and swimming through a forest of defenders while trying to do something — anything — to push-start L.A.’s stalling offense, until the transmission finally fell out in the last game.

Surprisingly, I found ABC’s coverage of the Finals to be pretty reasonable. Al Michaels and Doc Rivers aren’t the most electrifying broadcast team, but they’re infinitely easier to listen to than Bill Walton’s Lakerphiliac flamebait. Of course, anything is easier to watch when you can just fast-forward past the annoying parts, which my TiVo allows me to do. The ability to rewind and review plays is what really makes TiVo worth it though: being able to go back and catch little things like Hamilton’s deadly baseline cuts or Ben Wallace boxing Shaq out makes me fully understand what people mean when they talk about TiVo changing the way we watch television.

Now that the NBA season is over, we have the rest of the WNBA season to look forward to, as well as the Blazers’ first ever lottery draft pick (brief pause for uncontrollable sobbing). And the obligatory gloating over Laker fans, of course. Oh, and there’s this other sport I hear about, “base-ball” or something. I guess I might give that a look.