L.A. must go on the attack

Updated: June 7, 2004, 2:33 PM ET
By Brian James | Special to ESPN Insider
Brian James, a former assistant coach with the Pistons, Raptors and Wizards, spent the 2003-'04 season scouting for the SuperSonics. Insider tapped his NBA expertise for the NBA playoffs.

The fact that the Los Angeles Lakers lost at home for the first time in 10 games in this year's playoffs is not alarming. What is alarming, though, is how L.A. played and how the Lakers lost an 87-75 decision to the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Sunday. I tried to explain in my scouting report before the series just how good Detroit is, and now L.A. knows.

The Pistons dominated the game in almost every way, and just wanted the game more. The old saying goes that the playoffs start when you lose home-court advantage, and now, obviously, Detroit is up a break.

Shaquille O'Neal was the individual star of the game -- he went 13-for-16 from the field and 8-for-12 from the free-throw line in an incredible individual performance. But the Lakers have to realize they just wasted a herculean effort by the big man.

The difference was that Pistons coach Larry Brown elected not to double O'Neal in the post and instead had five different players guard him with single coverage -- Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Elden Campbell, Mehmet Okur and even Corliss Williamson.

Only Rasheed had to sit extended minutes due to fouls. Shaq was throwing in hooks and an assortment of bank shots from either block and over both shoulders, in addition to his normal layups and dunks. The Pistons' gameplan was to use their entire roster to make O'Neal and Kobe Bryant work as hard as possible to get their points, but not to double-team anyone.