Sure, the blueprint for this Laker team began last summer with the signings of forward Karl Malone and guard Gary Payton, which would give the team a veteran presence, along with additional scoring punch.
However, the Pistons had a blueprint of their own, starting with hiring former 76ers coach Larry Brown, and adding power forward Rasheed Wallace during the March trading deadline.
Both teams went through decent competition to get to the NBA Finals, and they're taking advantage of this time off to rest some weary legs prior to Game One on Sunday night in Los Angeles.
There are numerous intangibles going into this series, such as Lakers coach Phil Jackson seeking his tenth NBA championship, Pistons coach Larry Brown's quest for his first NBA championship, and Kobe Bryant's possible last run with the Lakers.
Needless to say, as the old adage goes, "offense sells tickets while defense wins games," and both the Lakers and Pistons play great defense. However, it's the Pistons' offense that is considered shaky, noting some of the low scoring games they managed throughout the playoffs. Pistons guard Richard "Rip" Hamilton will have Bryant defending him exclusively, while Shaquille O'Neal will have to deal with both of Detroit's Wallaces, Rasheed and Ben. Whichever Wallace is tussling with Shaq will free up the other Wallace to score. More than likely, it'll be Big Ben and Shaq going nose-to-nose.
The Pistons simply can't run and gun with this Laker team, but they can press them enough to force turnovers, which would lead to easy baskets. The Pistons feel they have one of the NBA's best defenses, and this'll be their chance to showcase it. They worked hard to get this far, and Detroit is a better cohesive unit going against the Lakers than any team Los Angeles has faced so far. This Pistons team's toughness has been compared to the 90's Pistons "Bad Boys" Championship teams, which could take the Lakers by surprise.
What the Lakers are bringing to the table is their experience, along with an impressive home-winning record in the postseason. They are 9-0 so far, after going 34-7 during the regular season. However, the home crowd can be negated with an early lead, and the Pistons letting their defense take over.
While everyone is familiar with both teams starting five, it's the benches that'll have to get the job done as well. Simply put, the Lakers have Derek Fisher, and he can play anywhere at anytime. However, Fisher is nursing a sprained right knee, which allowed Kareem Rush to score some key playoff minutes against the Timberwolves. The Pistons rely on their bench heavily, and long-time Piston guard Lindsey Hunter is their key. He consistently pressures the ball to disrupt the other team's flow, which appears to be their game plan against the Lakers.
It appears this series will boil down to the matchup between Bryant and Hamilton. These two have quite a history between each other, competing against each other as far back as in high school. While the NBA Finals has become Bryant's forte, as he's garnered three Finals MVP award, this is Hamilton's debut, and he's looking to prove he deserves to be there.
As Bryant has shown during the playoffs, he can make shots from basically anywhere on the floor, making it difficult to defend him at times. However, the Pistons will negate his ability to drive to the basket by setting up screens. Hamilton has made his share of superb shots as well this postseason, and is gaining confidence with every playoff series. Despite playing with a face guard, Hamilton has become the Pistons go-to guy, and the team will go as far as he'll go.
Regardless of what others think, and it may take a full seven games, but it wouldn't surprise me that it'll be Hamilton (a fellow Coatesville grad) will be hoisting the championship trophy this month.