One of the most overlooked series of all time, the 04 finals, was historic in many ways. Shaq and Kobe were looking for their 4th finals, and one of the big narratives that coincided with the series was if Kobe was a better player than Shaq at this point. They both had some clunkers, but Shaq had some great bounce back games such as his 36 point, 20 rebound performance to not go down 3-1, despite ultimately losing anyways.
The Pistons cemented themselves as one of the most legendary teams of all time, shutting down Shaq and Kobe and winning with NO MVP on the team. They did it though toughness and the arguable best defense ever.
Are the Boston Celtics the 04 Pistons? Absolutely not. We will never see a team like that again, winning without an MVP caliber player against two players of that caliber was unprecedented then, and it is now. That being said, you could make any argument this is one of the most versatile defenses since then, with every player on the team switching and guarding every other position for stretches of the game. Everyone? Yes, everyone. Below is a clip of Jaylen Brown guarding Joel Embiid.
Jaylen Brown guards Embiid for 20 seconds then blocks Maxey at the rim
Jaylen denies any kind of entry pass for 20 seconds, and then blocks Maxey at the rim while he tries to beat the shot clock. This is no knock to Jaylen, my favorite player, but he is the worst defender in our starting five. If he is the weakest link in your starting 5 on defense, that is a pretty strong chain.
In a gentleman’s sweep, those Pistons held Kobe to 22.6/2.8/4.4 on 38.1/17.4/92.1 (45.6% true shooting), to go along with 3.6 turnovers a game. Kobe coughed the ball up, and they took him out of the series. League average that season was 53.2%, so Kobe had a -7.6 real true shooting.
Kobe 04 Finals
KD was able to salvage his PPG with his semi-inefficient 39 point game to close out the sweep for Boston. That doesn’t tell the whole situation of what was done to him.
Durant first three games: 22.0/5.3/5.3 on 36.5/40.0/88.9 splits (51.7% true shooting) to go along with 5.7 turnovers. 3-0 is insurmountable. He had 39/7/9 in game 4 in a close game, that the Nets never even looked like they had a chance until Tatum fouled out, where he couldn’t capitalize down the stretch. Full series: 26.3/5.8/6.3 on 52.6% true shooting.
KD first 3 games
KD Full Series
I am not saying Kevin Durant is free of criticism for the series, just like Kobe is not. Just like every all time great player ever in their own ways for losing series and games. But if something like the 04 finals is overlooked for a Kobe type players legacy, so should this series for Durant.
Meanwhile Boston has a chance to prove this defense is the closest to that Pistons teams in a while with a battle starting tomorrow against a two time MVP, and the reigning finals MVP at that.