Tuesday , Jun , 07 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Preview – San Antonio vs. Detroit

***** NBA Playoff Preview – San Antonio vs. Detroit *****
From The Sports Network

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

SAN ANTONIO SPURS: 2nd Seed, West (59-23)

DETROIT PISTONS: 2nd Seed, East (54-28)

(Sports Network) – The defending world champion Detroit Pistons have earned
the right to represent the Eastern Conference and to defend their crown, as
they face the Western Conference’s San Antonio Spurs in the best-of-seven
NBA Finals.

This year’s matchup pits the champions of the past two years. The Pistons
defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in last year’s championship
round, while the Spurs knocked off the New Jersey Nets in six contests in the
2003 NBA Finals. Detroit and San Antonio are meeting in the postseason for the
first time.

The first two games of the series will be played at the SBC Center, while
Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) will take place at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
If the set goes to a sixth and seventh game, San Antonio would host those

The Pistons are making their fifth trip to the NBA Finals, and own a 3-1
record in this round. They are 15-6 in games played in the finals. Detroit
was defeated by the Lakers in the championship round in 1988, won back-to-back
titles in 1989 and 1990, and captured the crown last year. In 1989, Detroit
beat the Lakers and in 1990 the Pistons defeated the Portland Trail Blazers.

Detroit, which won the Central Division in the regular season and was the
second seed in the East, enters the NBA Finals with a 12-6 record in this
year’s postseason. The Pistons ousted the seventh-seeded Philadelphia in five
games in the first round, and knocked off future Hall-of-Famer Reggie Miller
and No. 6 Indiana in six contests in the semifinals. After defeating the
Sixers and Pacers, Detroit conquered Shaquille O’Neal and top-seeded Miami in
the conference finals, as it defeated the Heat in Game 7 at AmericanAirlines

Guards Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, who was the MVP of the 2004 NBA
Finals, have led the Pistons in scoring during the postseason. Hamilton is
averaging a team-best 21.3 points, while Billups has registered 18.0 points
and a team-best 6.6 assists per game. The 27-year-old Hamilton is Detroit’s
go-to player when his team needs a big basket, and Billups has continually
knocked down the clutch shot at critical times during the playoffs.

All-Star Ben Wallace, who won his third NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has
continued his tough and intimidating play in the middle for the Pistons.
Wallace has averaged 9.8 points and a team-best 11.7 rebounds during Detroit’s
playoff run. He is also averaging 2.1 blocks per game and is the catalyst of
the defending world champion’s tenacious defense.

Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince have come through once again for Detroit
in the postseason. Rasheed Wallace has backed up his words with timely and
clutch play, while the quiet Prince simply makes big plays on both ends of
the court.

The Pistons are 7-2 at The Palace and 5-4 on the road in this year’s playoffs,

San Antonio is making its third appearance in the NBA Finals. The Spurs beat
the New York Knicks in five games in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003. They are 8-3
all-time in games played in the finals.

The Spurs, who won the Southwest Division in the regular season and were the
second seed in the West, are 12-4 in this year’s postseason. They defeated
No. 7 Denver in five games in the first round, No. 3 Seattle in six contests
in the semis and the top-seeded Suns in five contests in the conference finals
San Antonio, which is 6-2 both at home and on the road in the
playoffs, owns the home-court advantage in the championship round.

All-Stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have stepped up big time for San
Antonio in the playoffs. Duncan leads the club in scoring (24.9 ppg) and
rebounding (11.7 rpg) in the postseason, while the energetic Ginobili has
averaged 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. When the Spurs have needed
a basket or a big defensive stop, Duncan and Ginobili have been up to the

Starting point guard Tony Parker has also been stellar for the Spurs. The 23-
year-old Parker is averaging 18.7 points and a team-best 4.8 assists in San
Antonio’s 16 playoff contests. Parker always comes to play in the postseason,
and this year has been no different.

Veterans Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry and Nazr Mohammed have also
played a big role in San Antonio’s success in the postseason. The 33-year-old
Barry, who has started eight of the Spurs playoff games, has knocked down
timely threes, while Bowen, who turns 34 on June 14th, has continued to play
tough defense on the other team’s best scorer.

The 34-year-old Horry, who has won five NBA championships and has played in
191 playoff games over his career, has once again saved his best play for the
playoffs. Horry, who averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 boards during the regular
season, has registered 8.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in the postseason. He has
made an impressive 42.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and
continues to hit the clutch shot at critical times of the game.

Mohammed, who was acquired from New York at the trade deadline, has been solid
in the middle for San Antonio. The 27-year-old center has posted 8.1 points
and 7.1 boards in the playoffs. The seven-year veteran has provided the Spurs
with decent play in the post, which has helped Duncan on offense around the

During the regular season, the teams split a pair of contests. The Spurs beat
the Pistons, 80-77, on December 3rd at the SBC Center, while Detroit
knocked off San Antonio, 110-101, on March 20th at The Palace of Auburn

FRONTCOURT: The Wallaces and Prince have proved that they can win in the
playoffs. Ben Wallace has showed flashes of offensive skills at times during
the postseason, and has been his usual dominant self defensively.

Rasheed Wallace is a great complement to the other Wallace, as he can score
from the outside as well as the inside. Since becoming a member of the Pistons
late last season, he has become a solid defender and has adapted to Detroit’s
style of play on both ends of the court. Prince, like Ben Wallace, excels
defensively, and, like Rasheed Wallace, can drain the outside jumper and
is also able to drive to the hole effectively.

Duncan, Mohammed and Bowen represent San Antonio up front. All three
players have different roles, as Duncan does it all, while the center
Mohammed can score around the basket and is a solid rebounder. Bowen, who was
the only Spur to play all 82 regular-season games, plays tough, physical
defense against the opposition’s best scorer.

The Spurs have the best player in this matchup in Duncan, but Detroit’s
frontcourt is better all-around. The Wallaces will provide San Antonio’s
leading scorer and rebounder with his toughest test.


BACKCOURT: Billups and Hamilton are true professionals and seem to shine
in the postseason. Both are solid defenders and can burn their
opponents on the offensive end of the court as well. Detroit’s backcourt is
not spectacular, but they know how to get the job done.

Detroit’s starting backcourt is not afraid to take the big shot in crunch
time, and they are also able to make the big stop when their opponent has a
chance to take a lead or to even win the game. This is one guard tandem
that comes to play in the playoffs.

The Spurs are not afraid to start Parker with Barry or Ginobili.
The 6-7 Barry does not make a lot of mistakes, is a solid shooter from long
distance and can play both guard spots, while Ginobili is effective coming off
the bench or as a starter. Parker will once again try to prove that he is
indeed one of the best point guards in the league against some tenacious

This is a great matchup. Ginobili, who will most likely start alongside
Parker, could see a lot of Prince. If Detroit puts Prince on Ginobili, the
Spurs will need to make some adjustments. Hamilton and Billups continue to
impress in the playoffs and get a slight edge here.


BENCH: San Antonio owns this matchup in the series. If Ginobili comes off
the bench, the Spurs become an even stronger squad. He gives them a
spark on both ends of the court, and also provides energy that can help
the Spurs come alive during tough times. The veteran Horry adds valuable
experience and has a history of hitting clutch shots during crunch time in
the postseason, while Barry helps the Spurs both as a starter and a reserve.

Rookie guard Beno Udrih will also see some time on the court for the Spurs.
Udrih provides a lift offensively for San Antonio, which also has 7-0
backup center Rasho Nesterovic and forward Glenn Robinson on the pine.

Guards Carlos Arroyo and Lindsey Hunter and forward Antonio McDyess
will get the minutes off the Detroit bench. Arroyo and Hunter are both capable
of running the point and can be paired with either Billups or Hamilton.

The 30-year-old McDyess is averaging 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in the
postseason. He has been Detroit’s first man off the bench and has been able to
provide the Pistons with an offensive spark when it has been needed. Reserve
center/forward Elden Campbell will be used if foul trouble becomes a factor
for Detroit’s frontcourt.

San Antonio’s bench is deeper than the Pistons. The Spurs need some serious
production from their reserves to help balance out some of the other matchups
in this series.


COACH: Gregg Popovich has guided the Spurs to a pair of NBA championships
(1999, 2003) during his tenure in San Antonio. He was named the 2003 NBA Coach
of the Year and has led San Antonio to the NBA’s best regular season record
three times (1998-99, 2000-01, 2002-03). Popovich knows what it takes to win
the big game and has the pieces to get the job done.

Detroit’s Larry Brown is one of the best coaches in the history of the
NBA. Brown, who led Detroit to the title last year in his first season with
the franchise, is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of
Fame. He gets the most out of his team, and has been able to once again get
his squad to realize that they win games with defensive intensity and when
everyone is involved in the offense.

There is some controversy surrounding Brown and his future in coaching. The
Hall-of-Famer is expected to visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota
soon after the Pistons’ season ends to have a medical problem that developed
after complications from hip surgery evaluated. Speculation that Brown could
retire from coaching and possibly join the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office
have surfaced.

Brown, who also guided Philadelphia to the 2001 NBA Finals, and Popovich are
arguably the top two coaches currently in the NBA. Both have won in this round
and are the best at what they do.


PREDICTION: This championship series has two great teams, a pair of
unbelievable coaches and some of the most clutch players that the NBA has ever
seen. The 2005 NBA Finals should be entertaining.