While the NBA is on COVID-19 hiatus, Jason Oliver is reliving some of the most notable upsets and best bookie beats over the years. This week, the Detroit Pistions shock the world.
As The Last Dance consumes the NBA world, debates over the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons and where they rank among champions are doing the rounds. However, the 1989 and 1990 champions aren’t the only Detroit team to win it all. The Pistons rebuilt and did it all again in 2004 to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.
They did it as hefty $6 series winner underdogs.
Up against a Los Angeles Lakers team boasting the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, the Pistons didn’t buy into the hype that surrounded the purple and gold leading into the series. Instead, they got straight into their work to put on a defensive masterclass in Game 1.
As +8 underdogs, the Pistons put clamps on the Lakers to win 87-75. Shaq did his thing for 35 points while Kobe added an inefficient 25 points. However, no other Lakers player scored more than five points.
Shaq and Kobe didn’t receive much help in Game 2 either. Again, none of their teammates cracked double-figures. But with the Pistons struggling themselves to shoot 39.5% from the field, the Lakers picked up the 98-91 straight up win while pushing their -8 line.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Pistons arrived back home and ready to make a statement. And boy, did they make a statement. The Lakers scored just 68 points with Shaq and Kobe kept to just 25 between them while the streak of single-digit games from each of their teammates was extended to three.
Finally, the odds started to show the Pistons as favourites.
Entering Game 4 of the NBA Finals swallowing a point, the Pistons covered the -1 spread in an 88-80 win.
What a performance from Chauncey Billups in Game 4 of the 2004 NBA Finals.
Good stuff, Mr. Big Shot! 🔥#DetroitBasketball
— Tony Dombrowski (@tonydombrowski) April 14, 2020
Returning to The Palace as -3 favourites for Game 5, they did so with a sense of anticipation. Shaq and Kobe’s relationship was already collapsing and the pieces around them didn’t fit. The Pistons, meanwhile, continued to thrive behind the defensive powerhouse of Ben Wallace, ‘Big Shot’ Chauncy Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.
Unlike the Lakers, the Pistons played as a unit. They fittingly all scored in double-digits in Game 5 while Ben Wallace kept a lid on O’Neal who scored just 20 points. The Lakers supporting cast finally chipped in with Stanislav Medvedenko and Derek Fisher scoring ten points apiece, but it wasn’t enough.
After opening the NBA finals as $6 underdogs to lift the trophy, the Pistons towelled up the Lakers 100-87 in Game 5 to win their first title since 1990.
Wallace was outstanding throughout the series, but Billups was handed the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy after averaging 21 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.