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Even though Al Horford is playing like a superstar in the playoffs, we really don't have any as of the moment. Neither did the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons when they finished off the powerful Los Angeles Lakers to take the NBA Championship in 2004.

I had broached this same idea in one of my first articles for CelticsLife. That Pistons team featured no superstars and won their Championship rings by playing superb defense.

The starters for that Detroit team were Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. In the NBA Finals they faced a Lakers team with Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone. The Pistons took out the Lakers in five games to win the Title.

The Pistons strategy, under Coach Larry Brown was to shut down everybody but O'Neal and Bryant, and it worked to perfection. O'Neal often required double-teams, but the smaller Ben Wallace often defended Shaq one-on-one and won the battle.

In the Finals, Shaq averaged 26.6 points per game - Kobe averaged 22.6 - and the next-highest average was 6.4 PPG for Derek Fisher. That is tough defense.


And that is what the current Celtics team is known for - tough, persistent, switching, annoying defense. Their scoring was an issue in the early going this season, but it is no longer. Not only has Brad Stevens developed his shooters - he has developed clutch shooters. Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can all shoot from anywhere now. Hell, even Aron Baynes is hitting his 3-pointers with regularity. Al Horford's shooting has been good all along, but he has become more aggressive on the offensive end.

The Celtics still have to get by Lebron James and the Cavaliers before any thoughts of meeting the Rockets or Warriors in the Finals, but it is still nice to think - What if? That Pistons team did it, and they were supposed to have had no chance. This Celtics team keeps beating the odds. Nothing says they won't keep doing it and become Champs in a season with all the injuries where no one gave them a shot. It would make for a great story.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Tom Lane 5/11/2018 02:38:00 PM Edit
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