Friday , Jun , 04 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Finish Line

It’s in sight, the end is near, and after 6 weeks of long grueling NBA playoff action the Finals are upon us.

Finish Line

The Lakers we’re the first to enter into the this final competition, dispensing of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 6 games thanks to the heroics of unheralded Kareem Rush and his 3-point marksmanship (6-7 from downtown) in Game Six.

The Lakers are led by the usual suspects of Shaq and Kobe, everyone thought with the additions of Karl Malone and Gary Payton they would cruise to the title, while they have yet to face a Game Seven, Payton and Malone have been far from blockbuster additions everyone envisioned them to be.

No it’s been the usual two, if one doesn’t get you the other will, done are the days of one man more or less handling a team (Jordan) these days teams need either a couple of superstars or great depth. Last year saw Tim Duncan and Tony Parker use the inside-outside combo to gain a second NBA title for the Spurs, and now we see the return of Kobe and Shaq. Seems to me that in the NBA it only takes two, adding Payton and Malone certainly made a lot of headlines but looking at the numbers didn’t make the Lakers that much better of a team, but what it did give them was depth, not bench depth they have none of that, but floor depth.

When all four are out there at the same time Malone and Payton aren’t going to get that many looks as the “Big Two” are going to be the primary weapons, but when they sit or get in foul trouble that’s where having those other two out there can really help out, as long as Payton and Malone step up, which they have enough of the time to help L.A. reach the Finals for the fourth time in five years.

It’s been a bit longer for the Eastern Conference Champions to be in a NBA Finals, 15 years to be precise. But the “Bad Boyz” (notice the “z” for a more current effect) are back and will look to take out a highly favored Laker team.

Sure they play ugly basketball but they win and the bottom line is they need four more wins to get the job done, allot of interesting match-ups for the Pistons who seem to have enough big men (Wallaces, Okur, Willliamson) to throw at Shaq but may have more trouble with Kobe as Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince are not known as outstanding defensive players.

Another interesting story line is Larry Brown the coach who has never been able to win the big one despite lots of overall coaching success going against Phil Jackson and his nine NBA rings. Both coach’s styles are much different in that Jackson is much more about running his system (the triangle) and trying to get the ball to Shaq as much as possible. Brown just wants hard defense all the time, any offence Detroit seems to produce comes as a bonus.

As always though this series will not be decided by coaching but the players, and if Detroit wants to win this they will need a huge effort from Rasheed Wallace, he’s the one guy that can not only guard Shaq but also may him work extremely hard on defense and make him run up and down the court.

Also with Rasheed’s outside game it will get Shaq outside of his comfort area on defense which would be anywhere 3 feet and in from the hoop. The Lakers have got their “Big Two” but the Pistons got more overall depth, and if they can use it and wear out the Lakers, especially if Detroit wins a game in L.A. and gets home court, they got a chance to put the pressure on the Lakers which L.A. has not experienced this playoff run yet, they may not respond to well to the adverse conditions.

Overall though you notice allot of “if’s” for a favorable Detroit situation, the Lakers are clearly a stronger more playoff tested team who have been through all this before, all you can really do is tune on Sunday and find out who comes ready to play.