2004 NBA FINALS
6 June: Lakers 75-87 Detroit
8 June: Lakers v Detroit
10 June: Detroit v Lakers
13 June: Detroit v Lakers
15 June: Detroit v Lakers*
17 June: Lakers v Detroit*
20 June: Lakers v Detroit*
* if necessary
The Detroit Pistons defied the form book and public expectation to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 87-75 in the opening game of the NBA finals on Sunday night.
The Lakers were unbeaten at home post-season and had won their last nine games, but fate would not seem to be on the side of the hot pre-match favourites.
Of the last 20 finals series, 14 have been won by the team who won the opening match.
Shaquille O'Neal was in good form for the home team, weighing in with 34 points and 11 rebounds, but Chauncey Billups' 22 points and Ben Wallace's eight rebounds inspired the Pistons to a shock victory.
Detroit's main offensive spearhead Richard Hamilton had a quiet night, scoring just 12 points, but Rasheed Wallace (14) and Tayshaun Price (11) both made valuable contributions as the Pistons outplayed the team looking for their fourth title in five years.
Kobe Bryant had a night to forget, missing consecutive three pointers when it seemed that the Lakers might be on the verge of closing down the visitors' lead, and Karl Malone and Gary Payton also looked out of sorts.
Malone had a scoreless first half and also missed seven of his nine shots from the field during the game.
"I have to make those shots," admitted Malone.
"I have to bring more out on the defensive end. Four points is terrible, my little boy can do that."
Detroit gained the upper hand early in the third quarter, and never let the Lakers back into the game, outscoring them 46-34 in the second half, and silencing the home fans.
Despite making such an impressive start to the series, Pistons coach Larry Brown was already looking forward to Tuesday's second game.
"I don't want them to be satisfied about winning the first game here," he said. "We want to win the second game."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted the visitors deserved their win.
"They brought the ball down with patience and executed each possession they wanted to over 24 seconds. It all worked out in their favour," he said.
"We came out flat in the third quarter. They had us on our heels."