Motown is Titletown

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Lakers left the court in pieces.

Karl Malone kept his head down, Shaquille O'Neal absently slapped a

few high-fives and Kobe Bryant jogged in late, encased in his own


The Pistons celebrated in concert, pulling their wives and

children and entourages onto an increasingly shaky stage at the

center of The Palace. They crowded around coach Larry Brown, who

stood next to the Larry O'Brien Trophy -- a small, golden monument

to the glories of teamwork.

"We did it the right way: working hard, working together,"

said president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, who built the

first championship team in Detroit since his playing days. "This

isn't a star system we've got here. I just think this is the

ultimate team."

Detroit's 100-87 victory in Game 5 Tuesday night ended one of

the most surprising NBA Finals in the last half-century -- the

triumph of togetherness over talent, collaboration over celebrity.

Richard Hamilton scored 21 points, Ben Wallace had 18 points and

22 rebounds and Chauncey Billups got six assists in the runaway

clincher. The Pistons surged ahead together, maintained the lead

together and held a long, sweet celebration together.

"Nobody gave us a chance, but we felt we had a great chance,"

said Billups, the finals MVP with 21 points and 5.2 assists per

game. "They had Shaq and Kobe, but we just felt we were a better


The Pistons won three straight home games to finish off the

franchise's first title in 14 seasons, the third in franchise

history. These Pistons are more Good Guys than Bad Boys, much less

iconic than the star-studded Lakers, but much better friends and


Detroit is the first champion from the Eastern Conference since

Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1998, ending the West's five-year

reign over the league with a demonstration of the biggest

difference between the conferences: consistent, hard-nosed defense.

"This team is built on defense, everybody knows that," said

Wallace, who finished five incredible games of defense on O'Neal,

held 10 points below his career NBA Finals average. "They've got a

lot of offensive weapons, but we got up in them pretty good."

The clincher was the most one-sided game of a lopsided series,

essentially ending when the Pistons made a 17-4 run in the third

quarter. Each player got a curtain call of sorts, with Hamilton

removing his distinctive clear face mask and pointing at it

triumphantly, no longer concerned for his oft-broken nose.

The team announced its Thursday parade schedule with 2:56 to

play, drawing more cheers. Owner Bill Davidson was one of the first

people on the floor as the confetti fell, celebrating the third

championship in eight months for his sports empire -- and nearly

getting broken in half by Ben Wallace's hug.

"I always have to be a little careful that I say I like them

both equally, but this is a tremendous night," said the

81-year-old billionaire, the Pistons' majority owner since 1974 and

owner of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the WNBA

champion Detroit Shock.

While his players and their fans celebrated, Brown shook a few

hands and slipped away through a side tunnel. Moments after

clinching the first championship of his 21-year NBA career, his

only reaction was to wipe his face with a handkerchief.

Brown either had tears or sweat in his eyes -- probably a bit of


"I haven't, in my life, had disappointments too many times

coaching this game," said Brown, the first coach to win titles in

the NBA and the NCAA. "I told them before the game, it would be a

great statement if we had an opportunity to win, because we do play

the right way, and we are truly a team."

The locker room was bedlam, with Lindsey Hunter spraying

champagne and Hamilton lighting the room with his smile. Kid Rock's

black felt fedora was drenched with bubbly, and so was his stringy

blond hair.

There were no stars hanging out with the Lakers, who failed to

win a title for carpetbagging veterans Malone and Gary Payton.

Malone couldn't even dress for Game 5, sidelined by a painful right

knee injury for the first time in 194 career postseason games. It's

probably a torn ligament, the Mailman said.

The fallout from this shocking loss won't be felt in Los Angeles

for several months, because the Lakers are almost certain to make

major changes to a team that was a title favorite both 10 months

and two weeks ago.

Coach Phil Jackson said there's only a slim chance he'll return

for a sixth season with the Lakers. Bryant, 29-for-86 in the

Lakers' four losses, reiterated his plan to opt out of his contract

this summer.

"It's going to be a funny summer," O'Neal said. "Everyone's

going to take care of their own business, and everyone's going to

do what's best for them. I don't know what that entails."

When the Lakers retool, they might want to look at the latest

model from Detroit.

"We've probably set a blueprint for how teams are going to

start putting their pieces together now," Hunter said. "We're so

deep and so good, up and down the roster. Nobody could compete."

Game notes
Former Lakers C Elden Campbell won the first title of his

14 NBA seasons, third-longest successful wait in league history.

Malone and John Stockton played 19 seasons without a title. ...

Detroit's Mehmet Okur scored seven points while becoming the first

Turkish player to win an NBA title.