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  Mon, June 14, 2004


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Pistons one win away
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

The Los Angeles Lakers couldn't even be saved by Magic.

And now a changing of the guard could be only 48 minutes away. Fittingly, it may occur at a venue called the Palace.

Led by a breakout offensive game from Rasheed Wallace and more of their trademark stifling defence, the Detroit Pistons slowly tortured the Lakers 88-80 in Game 4 of the NBA final last night before a ravenous sellout crowd at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.

"We all pretty much sucked the past two games," the Lakers' Kobe Bryant said. Truer words never were spoken.

Pistons fans literally smell West Coast blood, and who can blame them? The Pistons lead the series three games to one, and Game 5 also is at the Palace, tomorrow night.

No team in the history of the NBA final has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship.

When Pistons coach Larry Brown was asked if he's worried his players will get complacent when they read about the 100% failure rate for teams trailing 3-1, he replied, "I like it better the way it is, to be honest with you. I've been in the other locker room."

Brown never has won an NBA title in his lengthy career.

The Lakers have said repeatedly their only objective in Games 3, 4 and 5 on the road in this series is to win once, which would send the proceedings back to Los Angeles for Game 6 and, possibly, 7.

The Lakers have one more opportunity, but they have shown no ability to back up their defiant words with action. Only Shaquille O'Neal, with 36 points on 16-for-21 shooting and 20 rebounds, seemed to grasp the severity of the situation last night, while Bryant sputtered to a 20-point evening on 8-for-25 shooting.

When Shaq was asked if he was disappointed he didn't get the ball more often, he said, "I'm disappointed because you don't write what you see. I'm disappointed in you."

After promising big changes heading into Game 4, it was more of the same for the Lakers: Stilted offence, inconsistent defence, injured superstars and frayed nerves, with some referee-bashing mixed in for good measure.

"Oh, they don't think it's over," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, referring to the mood of his players. "They just want an even shake on the floor (from the officials)."

The Pistons shot 41 free-throws to 22 for the Lakers, but that had more to do with hard work by Detroit than biased officiating. Different Pistons have stepped up every night and last night it was Wallace's turn, with 26 points.

"I knew Karl was a little hobbled and it's something we had to attack," Wallace said of Lakers forward Karl Malone, who scored two points and was limited to 21 minutes because of his bad right knee. "We can't have any sympathy."

So if Magic Johnson was mad the other day, what do you figure his mood is this morning?

Johnson, a legendary former Laker and now a part-owner of the club, unexpectedly attacked his own team on Saturday while he was promoting a hoops camp in East Lansing, Mich. Among other things, Johnson said he was angry the Lakers hadn't taken the Pistons seriously.

Also on Saturday, Shaq, Kobe, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher and Devean George pulled Jackson aside and basically said, "We've won titles for you in the past, let us play together."

The odd men out in that scenario would have been Gary Payton and Malone. However, somewhat surprisingly, Jackson stood pat with his starting lineup last night.

The Lakers stayed close through three quarters, thanks exclusively to Shaq. But when the Pistons turned up the heat early in the fourth quarter, the Lakers wilted -- not as in Wilt Chamberlain, but as in Neville Chamberlain.

So what happens now?

The Lakers will say all the right things today. But if the pattern continues, it's the Pistons who will do all the right things tomorrow.







Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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