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Tariq Engineer

It’s the match-up everyone predicted. It’s the match-up that features arguably the two best teams from each conference. It’s a match-up that features the league’s best defense against the league’s two best offensive juggernauts.In six games against Indiana, Detroit scored over 80 points just once, and won four of those games. In game six, Detroit scored 69 points, and won, by 6 points. So everyone knows that Detroit can play D. The question is, can they score enough points against the Lakers that playing D will matter? The answer is “unlikely.”

While the Lakers will find it difficult to score against the Pistons, in Shaq and Kobe the Lakers have the league’s two best offensive weapons. The big man is literally, “the big man.” The self-styled Most Dominant Ever is an unstoppable force every time he decides to play hard, and the Pistons will have to foul him and take their chances at the free throw line.

Then there is Kobe, who is the best closer in basketball. Kobe is able to score at will when he needs to, and especially when his team needs him to, so Detroit will have their hands full. If they are going to make a series of it, they must find a way to score more points than they did against the Pistons.

On the other side, Detroit’s offense starts and ends with Rip Hamilton. Rip has been simply outstanding in the playoffs so far, where at times he has been the only Piston capable of putting the ball in the basket. If the Lakers put Kobe on Rip, it will be interesting to see how much energy Kobe expends chasing after Rip as he cuts and weaves through, and around, screens. Kobe’s energy level could be a factor come the fourth quarter of a close game.

It will also be interesting to see if Kobe can contain Rip, something no team (or defender) has been able to do consistently throughout this year’s playoffs.

So can the Pistons beat the Lakers? Again the answer is probably not. And definitely not if the Lakers show up hungry and ready to play. But if the Lakers take a night or two off, and the Pistons are able to find an offensive outlet to compliment Rip, the NBA finals could actually turn into a contest before it is all over.