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Could Celtics play underdog to powerhouse Nets in 2004 replay?


The Brooklyn Nets Big-Four of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and (soon-to-be-Net) Blake Griffin own a combined 33 Title rings and are considered favorites by many analysts to walk away with the 2021 Championship. But wait a minute. The 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers also had a Big-4 and history shows a total of 56 rings for the elite quartet who were favored to take the 2004 Title but fell to a much (on paper) weaker Pistons crew.

That Lakers group included Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. They were heavily favored over Detroit with a lineup of Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. But injuries and discord abounded within the Lakers organization, while the Pistons played team ball and tough defense - walking away with the prize  (per Wikipedia):

During the 2003 off-season, superstar guard Kobe Bryant had been accused of sexual assault in Colorado. Media attention surrounding the case would prove to be an ongoing distraction for the team, and Bryant missed games during his trial. In addition, Bryant's feud with superstar center Shaquille O'Neal reached a peak during the season, as both players criticized each other in the media. Payton struggled with coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense, and Malone missed significant time due to injuries.

Billiups was most-likely the closest to a star that the Pistons put on the floor, and NBA analysts gave them little chance of winning it all. But the toughness and team play of Detroit, coupled with the discord and injuries for the Lakers, produced that result.

On the subject of potential discord for the Nets, I I quickly point to former-Cavalier-and-Celtic, Kyrie Irving. His team sits in second place in the East, and winning brings harmony. A losing streak may inject some displeasure into the organization, and Irving has proven to be a loose cannon in such a setting.

On the injury front, Irving, Durant and certainly Griffin have all had their share. Despite being already labeled by many as the eventual champs this season, we may see a repeat of the 2003-04 NBA season where an underdog, such as the Boston Celtics, may step up with team play and tough defense to upend the Nets, and possibly whatever team from the Western Conference makes it to the Finals.





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