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Offense Is Rolling at Right Time

June 12, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Not that long ago, the Detroit Pistons' pick-and-roll was more like the pick-and-turnover, a bumbling offensive set that was laughably bad.

The Lakers aren't laughing now. With the evolution of the Pistons has come the development of their pick-and-roll, in time to exploit a team that has had problems defending it in recent playoff history.

Piston pick-and-rolls won't be confused with those run against the Lakers by John Stockton and Karl Malone, or, more recently, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, but Chauncey Billups has 68 points in three Finals games, many of them coming off screens set by Rasheed Wallace and Elden Campbell.

It's been a dramatic change from earlier this season, when the Piston pick-and-roll would get picked apart by opponents.

Sometimes the Detroit guards would move too fast before a screen fully developed, leaving them stuck in the teeth of a double-team.

Other times, the post players would forget to roll or, worse, would set illegal screens, acting like a pulling guard trying to take out a defensive end.

"We had some problems, little technical problems," Billups said.

The Pistons have looked almost flawless against the Lakers, who were susceptible to the pick-and-roll as far back as their 2000 NBA championship season.

"It's a very difficult thing for a 7-2 guy [Shaquille O'Neal] to get himself out in a position where he can defend that effectively, especially if you move him from side to side," Piston Coach Larry Brown said. "I experienced that with Dikembe [Mutombo]. As great as you can be defensively, that's still not the easiest thing for a big person to do. And then Karl being limited physically, I think that certainly has an impact."

The Lakers changed their pick-and-roll defense on the fly toward the end of Game 3 by putting Kobe Bryant on Billups, a strategy that could carry over to Game 4 Sunday.

"I would love the challenge of him guarding me for the entire game because I think him checking me 94 feet and running off a lot of pick-and-rolls would not be good for them on the offensive side of the court," Billups said. "He's going to be tired having to guard me, so I welcome that. It was the same kind of thing last year when we played in the first round against Orlando, and I got going and T-Mac [Tracy McGrady] stepped up and wanted to guard me and he did that, and he was so tired in the fourth quarter he could hardly score."


The Pistons have dominated the Lakers in offensive rebounds, holding a 43-29 lead in the category.

"That's everything for us," Brown said. "If we offensive rebound, I think that means we've probably taken a pretty good shot and caused them to maybe come over and help. And when big people have to help, that gives you an opportunity to rebound."

Piston guard Richard Hamilton has 11 offensive rebounds in the series, one more than O'Neal.

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