YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Billups Still a Laker Problem

Piston guard continues a trend of big games against L.A. He sets a physical tone early and finishes with 22 points.

June 07, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers figured they would have to stop Richard Hamilton off pick-and-roll sets. They were only partly correct.

On their way to what was supposed to an NBA Finals stroll, the Lakers were singed by the other Detroit Piston guard, Chauncey Billups, who beat the Lakers again and again via the pick-and-roll, one longtime Laker annoyance combining with another to give the Pistons a surprising 87-75 victory Sunday in Game 1.

Billups, who had averaged 28.7 points in his last three regular-season games against the Lakers, scored 22 on eight-of-14 shooting and set an early physical tone by efficiently using the pick-and-roll for short jumpers and simple layups.

Forget about the Lakers' needing to stop Hamilton. As Tony Parker was for the San Antonio Spurs, Billups is now a priority for Laker strategists.

"He has good strength, physical strength, strong shoulders and can clear himself out of pick-and-roll situations," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said. "He seemed to handle the pressure well. He identified what he wanted to get on actions that the team was running at the time. And then if things were not going for the team, pick his own points."

Billups, on his sixth team in seven NBA seasons, seems to have found a home in Detroit.

After failing to distinguish himself in Boston, Toronto, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota, he has found an offense that works for him, playing peek-a-boo with the Lakers whenever he has played them as a Piston.

"Coach knows that I'm going to be aggressive," Billups said. "And over the season, I've become a better pick-and-roll player because we've run pick-and-roll so much."

Billups had 29 points in a 94-89 loss to the Lakers on Nov. 14. Four days later, he had 24 points and eight assists in a 106-96 Piston victory. In a regular-season game last season, he had 33 points against the Lakers.

Sunday, Billups also succeeded in the non-statistical category of leadership.

"He kept things together pretty well," forward Rasheed Wallace said. "In crunch time, when they were trying to come back in the game, Chauncey was saying, 'Slow down, let's execute the plays.' "

Billups' guidance and scoring were needed on a night where Hamilton scored 12 points on five-of-16 shooting and Wallace played only 29 minutes because of early foul trouble.

"He really delivered," Piston Coach Larry Brown said. "He took great shots for the most part. He took one bad one and I got on him, like I always do. But he defended his position because, you know, Gary [Payton] got in foul trouble and I thought that had an impact on the game. Maybe Chauncey being aggressive helped in that regard."

Brown is generally more comfortable with point guards who pass first and shoot later, the opposite of Billups, who had only four assists Sunday.

But Brown acknowledged that Billups, averaging 15.2 points in the playoffs before Sunday, had been an important part of the Pistons' first trip to the Finals since 1990.

"We would not be here if it wasn't for him," Brown said. "I'm notorious for being difficult on point guards and expecting them to be an extension of the coaching staff on the court. Most of the point guards that I've had have really been point guards -- Mark Jackson and Eric Snow -- and Chauncey is more of a scoring guard. I think he's had to sacrifice a lot to enable us to get here in terms of [his] taking shots and being offensive-minded."



Top Billing

Piston guard Chauncey Billups had his third outstanding game against the Lakers this season

*--* Date FG-FGA FG% FT-FTA FT% Reb Ast Pts Nov. 14, 2003 9-17 52.9% 10-10 100% 3 5 29 Nov. 18, 2003 8-15 53.3% 6-7 85.7% 4 8 24 June 6, 2004 8-14 57.1% 4-4 100% 3 4 22 Averages vs. Lakers 8.3-15.3 54.2% 6.7-7.0 95.8% 3.3 5.7 25.0 Season averages 5.0-12.8 39.1% 5.2-5.9 88.1% 3.5 4.4 16.9


Los Angeles Times Articles