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View Full Version : Billups states the obvious, but still nice to hear



Unclebuck
06-17-2004, 08:41 AM
Indiana was without a doubt the toughest matchup for us in terms of how we stacked up against them," Finals MVP Chauncey Billups said. "That's not meant as disrespect to any of the other teams we had to go through. But that talk about the East being inferior to the West is nonsense, man. Anybody that understands this game knows that."

Here is the whole article

http://www.indystar.com/articles/8/155473-7538-179.html



Pistons prove NBA power has shifted East
Detroit's domination of Lakers and success of Pacers against West show a conference on rise.



By Sekou Smith
sekou.smith@indystar.com
June 17, 2004


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Now that the Western Conference's five-year hold on the NBA championship has ended, is it time to end all the talk of the Eastern Conference being the junior varsity league?

The world champion Detroit Pistons, who defeated the supposedly invincible Los Angeles Lakers, certainly think so.

"It's amazing what a JV team can do, huh?" Pistons forward Corliss Williamson said amid the wild locker room celebration after they sealed their championship with a Game 5 victory Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

"I'll take a JV world championship if people want to call it that," Pistons president Joe Dumars said. "Any way we can get it, man, any way we can get it."

Not since the Chicago Bulls in 1998 had an Eastern Conference team captured the title.

The Lakers and San Antonio Spurs passed the hardware back and forth since then, never needing more than six games to finish the Finals, with conventional wisdom being that whichever team emerged from the West would be the runaway winner.

But the Pistons' dominating 4-1 series win over the Lakers -- the running joke Tuesday night was that this was the first five-game sweep in Finals history -- appears to have pierced the West's aura of invincibility.

The Pistons had more difficulty dispatching the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals and the New Jersey Nets in the conference semifinals than they did with the star-studded Lakers.

The Pistons needed six games to get past the Pacers and seven to survive the Nets.

"Indiana was without a doubt the toughest matchup for us in terms of how we stacked up against them," Finals MVP Chauncey Billups said. "That's not meant as disrespect to any of the other teams we had to go through. But that talk about the East being inferior to the West is nonsense, man. Anybody that understands this game knows that."

The Pistons were 17-11 against Western Conference opponents in the regular season.

The Pacers, who had the league's best overall regular-season record (61-21), were even better. Their 20-8 mark against the West not only was the East's best, but their winning percentage was better than any Western Conference team's winning percentage against conference foes.

"You know what? Before we even got to this point, I felt New Jersey, Indiana and Detroit could compete for the championship," Dumars said. "We were 17-11 against the West and Indiana was even better, so you knew that was an indication of what could be done.

"The top three teams in the East were already competing against the West. It's just that four through eight (in the East) wasn't comparable with the West."

Like Dumars, Pacers president Larry Bird knew what the pundits didn't.

"I didn't believe L.A. was going to walk through this thing," Bird said. "We were right there. I thought we had a great chance."

So what was it Detroit did that the Pacers didn't do?

"They score the baskets when they need them. Every time," Bird said of the Pistons. "They make plays when they needed to. They had that block on Reggie (Miller), the way they finished Game 6, the way they came in here and beat us twice."

In retrospect, what separated the Pistons and Pacers might have been the health of three key players.

Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace played the entire playoffs with a severely injured left foot. Pacers All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal played the final three games of the conference finals on a sprained knee, and point guard Jamaal Tinsley's hamstring, knee and ankle injuries plagued him throughout the series.

Next season, the Pistons, Pacers and Nets will be expected to maintain their positions among the East's elite. They could have company, though, with a Miami team that pushed the Pacers in the conference semifinals, expected to be better. Cleveland, led by Rookie of the Year LeBron James, also could surprise.

The Western Conference's top teams -- the Lakers, Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks -- will return mostly intact for next season as well.

"It's going to be wild again next year," Williamson said. "And we know everybody will be coming after us. But we'll worry about that later. Right now, it's time to celebrate."