"Y'all put it in the front page, back page, middle page, wherever. We will win game 2."
After a clutch Reggie Miller strike handed the Detroit Pistons a deflating loss in game 1 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, Rasheed Wallace knew it was time to make a statement, both figuratively and literally. His "Guaransheed", as it became to known, served as a media flashpoint leading up to the second game of their series against the Indiana Pacers.
The Pistons fully understood that falling behind 0-2 could be signing their own playoff death certificate. Only a year earlier, they'd been swept by the New Jersey Nets after finding themselves in a similar position. It was time to take a stand, and Rasheed's words led the way.
Game 2 didn't exactly open as planned for the Pistons. A flat start yielded just 12 first quarter points. Wallace, the man with the guarantee, connected on just 1-10 attempts from the floor in the first half. Subsequently, to the surprise of few, the Pistons trailed 43-37 at intermission.
Then things got serious.
The Pistons limited the Pacers to 11 points in the third and by the time there was two minutes left in the fourth, Detroit had built a 69-63 advantage and it appeared as though Rasheed's proclamation would hold true. Not so fast. Miller utilized his veteran savvy to draw fouls on back-to-back plays, resulting in four unanswered points that'd cut the lead to two, and quickly inject life into a filled-to-the-brim Conseco Fieldhouse.
Moments later, following a Jermaine O'Neal block on Rasheed Wallace's dunk attempt, Pistons guard Chauncey Billups was stripped as he attempted to slide into the lane with the shot clock whittling toward zero. Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley scooped up the loose ball and fed it ahead to Miller, who had nothing but wide open real estate between himself and the rim.
A 20-year-old college student at the time, I recall watching that evening's events unfold before my eyes. And I may or may not have fallen off my couch while helplessly watching Miller mosey into the open floor - a game-tying, victory-stealing layup appearing imminent. A million thoughts worked through my mind during the few seconds between Miller's catch and his attempted game-tying layup. Strangely, quickly moving to the forefront was a sense of irrational anger and displeasure stemming from ESPN anchor Brad Nessler's perceived obsession with Miller. His overly excited "Reggie Miller!" exclamation felt as though he'd been waiting for impending Pistons failure all night.
Yet, just when it seemed all hope was lost, Tayshaun Prince happened.
To those who followed the Pistons travails throughout the 2004 campaign, and perhaps dating back to 2003, it wasn't exactly a surprise. In just a year and a half of work, Prince had carved out a niche as a guy who was liable to chase someone down and block their shot in the open floor, if they weren't careful. But this was the Eastern Conference Finals, and that was Reggie Miller, and the space between Miller and the closest defender was just a bit too far, even for Prince. Right?
Wrong. In the blink of an eye, Prince chased, elevated, extended, deflected Miller's layup attempt, then involuntarily launched himself deep into the Indiana crowd (in a non-Artest fashion). Now nearly nose-to-nose with the television and in euphoric disbelief, I slowly initiated the process of picking my jaw up off the floor, while still harboring a sense of ill-will toward Nessler, who almost sounded disappointed that Prince was able to step up and complete one of the greatest defensive plays in NBA history.
Prince's game-clinching block was the 26th total rejection of the game, an NBA playoff record that still stands. Both teams combined to attempt 144 shots. That means over 18 percent of all the field goals attempted that night (nearly 1 out of 5) were sent away. Meanwhile, the 72-67 final would hardly serve as an impressive halftime score in 2015.
The Pistons, of course, would ride the wave of Prince's block all the way to a "five-game sweep" over the heavily favored Lakers in that year's NBA Finals. As for Rasheed Wallace? He told y'all.