Pistons beat the Lakers  JUN 16 2004

Watching the Pistons beat the Lakers last night to win the NBA championship was a pleasure. No one gave them a chance at the beginning of the series yet they dominated the Lakers with defense, good fundamentals, and team basketball. Some miscellaneous notes:

- The Lakers' age, lack of cohesion, and reliance on luck finally showed in this series. The last few years and especially in these playoffs, whenever the Lakers needed a big bucket or a run to get back in the game, some random player would come off the bench to score 10 points above his average, Kobe would nail an impossible shot, or Shaq would get hot at the free throw line. Except for game 2, that didn't happen in this series. If only Sam Cassell hadn't been hurt and the Lakers had been a little less lucky in the Minnesota series...

- As the Pistons celebrated with the trophy up on the podium, Darko Milicic stood quietly behind his raucous teammates. He's the loneliest championship winner I've ever seen; even some of assorted entourages in attendance were closer to the trophy celebration than Darko. At 18 and the #2 draft pick from Serbia, Darko just doesn't fit in with the rest of the team. You could see it on the bench, when he was on the floor briefly during the playoffs, and after the game.

- Darko's stark separation from his teammates reminded me of the Lakers. As the series started, there was all that talk of Malone being the father figure of the team, bringing them all together. What a load of crap. Neither Malone or Payton ever fit in with the rest of the team, not really. Payton hated the triangle offense. Kobe and Shaq tolerate each other and that's being kind. They had no role players that complemented their strengths. The Lakers prided themselves on being able to "pull together" when they really needed to but were too dysfunctional to do even that much this time.

- Doc Rivers is a fantastic announcer. As an ex-player and an ex-coach, he knows a ton about the game. But unlike many athletes-turned-broadcasters, Rivers is smart, articulate, witty, and outpaced even veteran broadcaster Al Michaels. He is Bill Walton's exact opposite, which is to say he should not be banned from announcing anything other than volleyball for the rest of his life.

ps. Back on May 27th, Ralph Wiley, a writer for Sports Illustrated, nailed the outcome of the Finals before the Lakers/Pistons matchup had even been decided. Further ps. Lots of email about this one...Ralph Wiley passed away recently, right before game 4 of the Finals got underway actually.

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