Pistons must shake off defeat

Updated: June 9, 2004, 10:26 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.

Whether or not to foul at the end of a close game, when your team has a three-point lead, is the most debated strategy for coaches at every level.

I don't care what they tell you in hindsight, it's almost a 50-50 split between coaches who would make a player hit a tough 3, closely guarded, at the end of the game, and those who would foul before he could get off the shot. The foul gives up two free throws and forces the opponent to foul in order to get the ball back, or to miss the second free throw in hopes of getting an offensive rebound and score.

In the case of Kobe Bryant's game-tying shot with 2.1 seconds remaining in the Los Angeles Lakers' eventual 99-91 overtime victory over Detroit in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, the Pistons' Ben Wallace was probably the most surprised person on the court to see Shaquille O'Neal catch the initial inbounds pass. If Wallace had realized it, he probably would have tackled O'Neal (instead, Shaq passed to Luke Walton, who handed off to Bryant).

Kobe Bryant

Bryant is the best finisher in the world at the end of a big game, so keeping the ball out of his hands would have helped the Pistons. If the Lakers go on to win this series, Bryant's game-tying shot over Richard Hamilton will be showed for years to come as one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history.

After the shot, Detroit played the rest of the game in a state of shock. The Pistons would have had an almost insurmountable 2-0 lead in the series with three consecutive home games coming up had they won. Now they have to regroup mentally in a short period of time. Detroit, in my mind, outplayed the Lakers in the first two games in L.A., and now must be energized by playing in front of 23,000 screaming fans at The Palace.

There were some very noticeable changes between Games 1 and 2 for both these teams: