Monday , Jun , 07 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Billups shines in Game 1 of finals

(Sports Network) – Detroit’s Chauncey Billups scored a team-high 22 points
and dished out four assists, as the Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers,
87-75, in Game 1 of the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

The 27-year-old Billups played 39 minutes and shot 8-of-14 from the field,
including 2-of-4 from three-point range. The Pistons’ starting point guard
also played tough defense and registered three steals in the victory.

Billups looked like he was on a mission from the outset of the contest, as he
had dominated LA’s Gary Payton and scored 11 points in the opening quarter. He
forced Payton, who finished with just three points and three assists in 31
minutes of action, into early foul trouble which really seemed to take the
former All-Star out of the game.

“You know, he (Billups) plays great sometimes when he doesn’t score,” Detroit
head coach Larry Brown told The Detroit News about Billups’ performance.
“Tonight, with Rip (Richard Hamilton) struggling, we needed somebody to step
up, and he really did. He really delivered.”

The solid shooting night by Billups was also a big relief for the Pistons. He
entered Game 1 having shot just 35 percent from the field during the
postseason. During the regular season, Billups made 39.4 percent of his
attempts from the field.

Billups is averaging 15.5 points and a team-best six assists in the postseason
for Detroit.

A former first-round pick of the Boston Celtics, Billups came through when the
Pistons really needed it, as Detroit’s leading-scorer Richard Hamilton, who
had registered eight straight 20-point performances in the postseason, had an

Hamilton logged a team-high 43 minutes, but shot just 5-of-16 from the floor
and ended with 12 points. He did grab seven boards and handed out a game-high
five assists.

All-Star Ben Wallace scored nine points and pulled down eight boards in 41
minutes of action for the Pistons, while Rasheed Wallace finished with 14
points and eight rebounds.

The Lakers were led by their two All-Stars, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
O’Neal ended with a game-high 34 points and 11 rebounds, while Bryant netted
25 and dished out four assists.

The Pistons looked sharper and more focused than the heavily-favored Lakers.
Detroit’s defense was impressive and its offense seemed to have a crisper flow
than the Lakers.

“They (Lakers) were sitting here waiting at home,” Brown told the LA Daily
News. “I thought we had time to prepare. We’re coming off a real tough series,
and I think mentally, we were into this game.

Detroit’s trademark is defense and that is why it won the opener of the
series. With the win, the Pistons improved to an impressive 10-1 when they
hold their opponent to 80 points or less in this year’s postseason. If Detroit
can continue to hold the Lakers’ offense under 80 points, than the NBA title
could return back to the Motor City for the first time since 1990.