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Saturday, June 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Phil Jackson vs. Larry Brown. One has nine NBA championships, the other has none. One is a great teacher who implores his teams to "play the right way," the other is more like a principal who tries to keep his pupils from sniping at each other. One tries to get his team to stick to the principles of the triangle offense, the other eschews zone defenses and Hack-a-Shaq strategies even if they'd give his team a better chance at a victory. Edge: Lakers.
Shaquille O'Neal vs. Ben Wallace. The Lakers' center is one of the few people walking the earth who can make Wallace seem puny by comparison. Known as "Diesel," O'Neal can be expected to power his way to the basket and rattle the rim with his dunks. Wallace, nicknamed "Big Ben," is a tenacious defender and rebounder with few offensive skills. Both are horrible free-throw shooters, O'Neal making only 41 percent of his attempts this postseason, Wallace making 48 percent. Edge: Lakers.
Karl Malone vs. Rasheed Wallace. Malone gets the edge in charisma, charm and cunning, while Wallace has the better shooting range and more volatile disposition. Malone has proven himself to be a key component to the Lakers' success throughout the season, while the addition of Wallace in a trade-deadline deal gave Detroit the extra piece it needed to rise above the mediocre level of competition in the East. Edge: Lakers.
Devean George vs. Tayshaun Prince. George is the only non-superstar in the Lakers' starting lineup, a solid player both inside and outside who can hurt an opponent if he's ignored. Prince is longer and quicker, though he has struggled to be a consistent producer on offense during the postseason. Edge: Even.
Kobe Bryant vs. Richard Hamilton. Nobody in the league has as much natural talent as Bryant, whose combination of explosiveness and shooting range make him one of the NBA's wonders to watch. Nobody in the league can run quite like Hamilton, who relies on coming off a labyrinth of screens to free himself for the midrange jump shots he hits better than anyone. Edge: Lakers.
Gary Payton vs. Chauncey Billups. A playmaker on the decline vs. an underrated leader who has changed from a shoot-first scorer to more of a traditional floor general. Payton has made drastic changes to his game since joining the Lakers and becoming the fourth, rather than first, offensive option. Billups has evolved under Brown's coaching into one of the league's steadiest point guards. Edge: Pistons.
Derek Fisher, Slava Medvedenko, Kareem Rush and Rick Fox vs. Corliss Williamson, Lindsey Hunter, Mike James, Elden Campbell and Darvin Ham. Fisher and Rush are the only players in the series capable of providing instant offense off the bench, while Williamson, Ham and Campbell provide 18 fouls to use against O'Neal. Edge: Lakers.
The Associated Press
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