Monday, June 14, 2004
Point guard beating L.A. to the punch
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The shortest starter in the NBA Finals has been just as unstoppable as the tallest.
While the Detroit Pistons do not have an answer for 7-foot-1 center Shaquille O'Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers can't slow down 6-3 point guard Chauncey Billups.
Billups scored 23 points to help Detroit beat the Lakers 88-80
Sunday, and take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven championship
He is averaging 22.8 points in the series -- on 50 percent
shooting -- second only to O'Neal's average of 28.3 points.
Billups has found himself open countless times on pick-and-roll
plays, and one-on-one moves against Gary Payton and Derek Fisher over the first four games.
"I'm getting great shots that are my shots, and a lot of times,
they are not even contested,'' he said. "I feel like if I can get
those looks, I'm supposed to knock those down. I'm a shooter. I'm a
scorer. That's what I do.
"I just hope they continue to play like that, and we'll
continue to run a lot of the same sets.''
If Detroit can win one more game, perhaps Tuesday at home, the
Pistons will be champions for the first time since 1990 and the
third time in franchise history.
Before the series started, Billups was confident in Detroit's
chances despite the team's underdog status.
"We're ready to shock the world,'' Billups said a day before
Billups said the Pistons were happy when they got to their
locker room after Game 4 because they thought it was the biggest
game of the series. But they didn't get out of hand with joy
because they still respect the Lakers, who are going for their
fourth title in five years.
"We just said, `We're not there yet,''' Billups said. "We're
playing against a team that has been here plenty of times. They are
not going to panic. They are going to come out and play, obviously
with a sense of urgency on Tuesday.
"There's not time to celebrate.''
Scoring a lot of points against the Lakers is nothing new for
In two regular-season meetings this season, he had a combined 53
points -- 33 more than any of his teammates -- on 53.1 percent
In both of those games, Billups didn't have Rasheed Wallace as a
teammate. He clearly did Sunday.
Each time the Lakers tried to come back in the fourth quarter,
Billups or Wallace seemed to make a big play.
Wallace scored a playoff-high 26 points, and one of his biggest
baskets came on an alley-oop pass from Billups early in the final
quarter after Los Angeles cut its deficit to two points.
After Wallace pulled the Lakers within three midway through the
fourth -- twice -- Billups answered with 3-pointers to provide a cushion.