The 2004 NBA Finals was initially thought to be a complete mismatch on paper. The Los Angeles Lakers featured a starting lineup of 4 future Hall of Famers and many had conceded the title to them even before the season. The Detroit Pistons were the heavy underdog, featuring a team with no marquee star built on defense and balanced scoring.
As we all know, things didn’t play out as many thought they would. The Pistons dominated the Lakers all series and if not for a late Kobe Bryant 3-pointer to send game 2 into overtime, would have swept the star-studded team from LA.
Phil Jackson was the head coach of that Lakers squad back then and is now today doing some consultant work for the Pistons as they search for their next head coach. That didn’t stop him from throwing some shots at the team over the way they won the Finals in 2004 while talking with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo.
Per Detroit News: Jackson proceeded to seemingly take a shot at the Pistons and former coach Larry Brown, insinuating the Pistons flopped against O’Neal during that series and that it led to the Lakers’ demise.
“Larry Brown taught guys to go down (flop) on Shaq and that’s one of the reasons they won in ’04,” Jackson said. “He had the center, (Ben) Wallace as the David in that matchup and those (plays) were called as charges.”
“Shaq would put a shoulder into you and test how close he could get to the basket,” said Jackson, who’s on a tour promoting his book “Eleven Rings.”
Sounds like some mild salt but Jackson has a right to his opinion.
For the most part, the Lakers were just outplayed in that Finals series in my personal opinion. They were dealing with major egos all season with Karl Malone and Gary Payton joining the squad, and in terms of chemistry were the inferior team to the Pistons.
Obviously the Lakers had more talent, but I think the 2004 NBA Finals showed more than anything that you need a lot more than just a talented group of individuals to win the NBA title.