2003–04 Detroit Pistons season

The 2003–04 NBA season was the 63rd season for the Pistons, the 56th in the National Basketball Association, and the 47th in the Detroit area. Despite a solid year last season, the Pistons received the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, which they obtained from the Memphis Grizzlies. They selected Darko Miličić as their top pick, but only used him as a reserve as he played limited minutes off the bench; he would later be regarded as one of the most infamous busts in the history of the NBA draft. After their first trip to the Conference Finals since 1991, the Pistons hired Larry Brown as head coach. Under Brown, the Pistons were once again a tough defensive team as they went on a 13-game winning streak between December and January. However, after a solid 33–16 start, they struggled in February losing six straight games. At midseason, the team acquired All-Star forward Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks after playing just one game for them. With the addition of Wallace, the Pistons won 16 of their final 19 games finishing second in the Central Division with a 54–28 record. Ben Wallace was selected for the 2004 NBA All-Star Game. The Pistons went on to win the NBA Championship for the third time in franchise history, with Miličić being the youngest player to win said championship.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Pistons defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in five games despite losing Game 2 at home. In the semifinals, they faced the New Jersey Nets who swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals in the previous year. The Pistons would win the first two games at home, but the Nets would put up a fight against the Pistons to take a 3–2 series lead, which included a triple overtime win in Game 5. However, with the Pistons facing elimination, the Pistons were digging an early hole in Game 6, but the Pistons were able to erase a 13–2 deficit and never trailed for the remainder of the game as they would refuse to relinquish the lead to the Nets and win Game 6 81–75. In Game 7, the Pistons stingy defense held Jason Kidd to 0 points to blow out the Nets 90–69 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they defeated the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in a defensive six game series to earn their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 1990. In the Finals, the Pistons would pull off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history by defeating the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers four games to one, winning their third overall championship and first since 1990. Chauncey Billups was named Finals MVP.

Draft picks


Roster listing
Detroit Pistons roster
Pos.No.NameHeightWeightDOB (YYYY-MM-DD)From
PG1United StatesBillups, Chauncey6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)202 lb (92 kg)Colorado
C41United StatesCampbell, Elden6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)279 lb (127 kg)Clemson
SF24United StatesFowlkes, Tremaine6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)212 lb (96 kg)Fresno State
SF8United StatesHam, Darvin6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)240 lb (109 kg)Texas Tech
SG32United StatesHamilton, Richard6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)193 lb (88 kg)Connecticut
PG10United StatesHunter, Lindsey6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)195 lb (88 kg)Jackson State
PG7United StatesJames, Mike6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)188 lb (85 kg)Duquesne
C31Serbia and MontenegroMiličić, Darko7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)275 lb (125 kg)Serbia and Montenegro
C13TurkeyOkur, Mehmet6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)290 lb (132 kg)Turkey
SF22United StatesPrince, Tayshaun6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)215 lb (98 kg)Kentucky
C3United StatesWallace, Ben6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)245 lb (111 kg)Virginia Union
PF30United StatesWallace, Rasheed6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)230 lb (104 kg)North Carolina
SF34United StatesWilliamson, Corliss6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)245 lb (111 kg)Arkansas
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Last transaction: 2004–02–26

Regular season

Season standings

Record vs. opponents

Game log

2003–04 game log
Total: 54–28 (Home: 31–10; Road: 23–18)
2003–04 schedule


East First Round

(3) Detroit Pistons vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks: Pistons win series 4–1

Last Playoff Meeting: 1989 Eastern Conference Semifinals (Detroit won 4-0)

East Conference Semifinals

(2) New Jersey Nets vs. (3) Detroit Pistons: Pistons win series 4–3

Last Playoff Meeting: 2003 Eastern Conference Finals (New Jersey won 4-0)

East Conference Finals

(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (3) Detroit Pistons: Pistons win series 4–2

Last Playoff Meeting: 1990 Eastern Conference First Round (Detroit won 3-0)

NBA Finals

Series summary

Team/Game12 (OT)345Wins
Los Angeles (West)75996880871
Detroit (East)879188881004

(OT) denotes a game that required overtime.

The Finals were played using a 2-3-2 site format, where the first two and last two games are held at the team with home court advantage. This was only used in the Finals, all other playoff series are held in a 2-2-1-1-1 format (the team with home court advantage starts).


The Lakers had a lineup of stars such as Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal – their offensive capability was expected to overpower Detroit's defensive-based gameplan.

Payton and Malone also added to the publicity of the Finals. Perennial All-Stars who had both previously reached the Finals, Payton had led the Seattle SuperSonics there in 1996, while Malone had led the Utah Jazz there in 1997 and 1998. However, Michael Jordan and the Bulls denied their championship rings a total of three times. By the time of Jordan's retirement in 2003, the two veterans were aged and failed to lead their teams deep into the playoffs. Thus, this Finals series was seen as the last chance for two of the greatest players in NBA history to finally become NBA champions (Later on, Malone retired while Payton became a champion as a key bench player for the Miami Heat).

Game One

Sunday, June 6, 2004, 14:30 at the Staples Center.

Considered to be a stunning upset by most of the NBA world, the Detroit Pistons managed to defeat the Lakers with imposing defense. Defensively clamping down on everyone but Bryant and O'Neal, the Pistons managed to hold everyone else to a total of 16 points.

The Pistons trailed the Lakers 41–40 at halftime, but a 10–4 surge capped by Billups's 3-pointer gave the Pistons the lead. O'Neal's foul trouble furthered the scoring gap, with the Pistons leading by 13 points early in the fourth quarter.

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles1922171775

Game Two

Tuesday, June 8, 2004, 15:04 at the Staples Center.

The second game was close throughout the first half, but in the third quarter Detroit would score 30 points, cutting the deficit 68–66. However, at the end of the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant's 3-point shot at 2.1 seconds to go would tie the game at 89–89. The Lakers and Pistons would then go to overtime, with the Lakers outscoring the Pistons 10–2.

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.OTTotal
Los Angeles182624211099

Game Three

Thursday, June 10, 2004, 14:31 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Pistons beat Los Angeles by 20 in their first NBA Finals appearance together at The Palace of Auburn Hills since 1989 to take a 2–1 lead in the series. The 68 points scored by the Lakers set a (post-shot clock) franchise record for the fewest points scored in a Finals game. (Even Jay Leno was upset, saying in his Tonight Show monologue: "68 points? 68 is a great score...if you're playing golf!")

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles1616191768

Game Four

Sunday, June 13, 2004, 14:49 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Again, the Pistons defeated the Lakers, although this time by eight, to take a 3–1 series advantage.

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles2217172480

Game Five

Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 14:32 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

In Game 5, the Pistons won their first championship since 1990, and Larry Brown finally won a title as an NBA head coach. The Pistons defense had overcome the high-scoring Laker offense, winning the game by 13, winning the series 4-1, and also ending a long Laker dynasty that lasted for many years. The game saw the end of Phil Jackson's first run as the coach (he returned for the 2005-06 season), and saw O'Neal, Payton, and Malone's last games in Laker uniforms (O'Neal and Payton were both acquired by the soon-to-be NBA Champions Miami Heat and Malone retired).

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles2421142887

Playoff Defensive Records

As a result of their incredible defensive dominance, the 2004 Pistons set a number of notable shot-clock era (1955–Present) defensive Playoff records

  • Allowed under 90 points in 18 playoff games
  • Allowed under 85 points in 16 playoff games
  • Allowed under 80 points in 11 playoff games
  • Allowed under 75 points in 6 playoff games
  • Allowed under 70 points in 6 playoff games
  • Allowed 65 or less points in 3 playoff games
  • One of 2 teams (1998 Bulls) to allow under 60 points in a playoff game
  • Allowed under 40% FG in 12 playoff games
  • Allowed under 35% FG in 5 playoff games (Tied with 1999 Knicks)
  • Allowed under 30% FG in 2 playoff games (Tied with 1999 Knicks)

Least Points Per Game (PPG) allowed in a shot-clock era Playoff run of any length

  • The 2004 Pistons allowed 80.696 PPG, slightly lower than the 2000 Heat at 80.700 PPG allowed
  • Excluding Overtime periods, the 2004 Pistons allowed 78.6 PPG for the Playoffs in regulation compared to 79.9 PPG allowed for the 2000 Heat

The 2004 Pistons had a Defensive Rating of 92.0 in the Playoffs

  • This is the lowest Defensive Rating any team has had in a Post-1st Round Playoff run in the 3-point era (1980–present)
  • The 2000 Spurs had a 91.4 Defensive Rating, but this was in a 1st Round loss of only 4 games

Player statistics

  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
 FG% Field-goal percentage 3P% 3-point field-goal percentage FT% Free-throw percentage
 RPG Rebounds per game APG Assists per game SPG Steals per game
 BPG Blocks per game PPG Points per game


* Statistics include only games with the Pistons


Award winners



Players Added

Via draft

Via trade

Via free agency

Players Lost

Via trade

Via retirement



August 21, 2003To Detroit Pistons
Bob Sura
To Golden State Warriors
Clifford Robinson
Pepe Sánchez
August 28, 2003To Detroit Pistons
Lindsey Hunter
To Toronto Raptors
Michael Curry
February 19, 2004Three-team trade
To Atlanta Hawks
Chris Mills (from Boston)
Bob Sura (from Detroit)
Željko Rebrača (from Detroit)
2004 first-round pick (from Milwaukee via Denver and Detroit)
To Boston Celtics
Chucky Atkins (from Detroit)
Lindsey Hunter (from Detroit)
2004 first-round pick (from Detroit)
Cash considerations
To Detroit Pistons
Mike James (from Boston)
Rasheed Wallace (from Atlanta)

Free agency



External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article 2003–04 Detroit Pistons season, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.