The Pistons teams of the late 1980s and the early 1990s were known as the “Bad Boys”. These teams were led by a punishing and aggressive defense and this hard defense and attitude led them to two straight NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. While successful, this brand of basketball was hated by some and sort of seemed to disappear soon after with offensive teams like the Lakers and Bulls taking over. Well, in 2004, the Piston initiated a true throwback as they were able to play the same brand of basketball as the pioneers on their team and rode that type of ball to a championship. This article will take a look at that historic and dominant 2004 Detroit Pistons team.
Leading into the 2003-04 NBA season, the Pistons were actually one of the most ridiculed teams out there. This stemmed from the fact they selected a fairly unproven Darko Milicic with the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft with names like Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade still on the board. Despite this, they were still expected to do fairly well with new coach Larry Brown at the helm.
When the season ended, the Pistons finished 54-28 which was good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. Through the season, the team utilized a very defensive minded game plan and it worked very well. The team was easily one of the best defensive teams in all categories. However, some believed they couldn’t make it too far in the playoffs with their below average offense. In fact, their pace was one of the worst in the league and their points per game and offensive rating was among the worst in the league.
In addition to this, the team didn’t really have a “star” which was common among the best teams of the time. The sixers had Iverson, Raptors had Carter and so on and so forth. The Pistons instead relied on each and every one of their starters and role players to pitch in on the offensive end and help on the defensive side of the ball as well.
However, the trade deadline addition of Rasheed Wallace definitely had perhaps the biggest impact on the team, and he had a real “bad boys” vibe to him. Also, their center (Ben Wallace) was one of the most feared players in the paint and seemed to viciously block anyone who came his way.
Surprising to some, the Pistons made it all the way to the NBA finals and met the Lakers, who were full of huge stars and a crazy offensive talent. The likes of Karl Malone, Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton and more made the Lakers and offensive juggernaut that was near impossible to stop. Most thought their crazy good offense would steamroll through the solid defense of the Pistons.
However, the Pistons won the series in a dominating 4-1 and essentially ended the Lakers dynasty that was going on for years. Their defense was able to stifle the offensive juggernaut and show that teams should forget about the defensive side of the ball as that can be a solid and proven way to win championships.