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

Matchups to watch in the NBA Finals

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – The defending world champion Detroit Pistons and San
Antonio Spurs are two teams that do not have many weaknesses. The 2005 NBA
Finals has a pair of great defensive squads that are guided by two of the most
intelligent coaches that the league has ever seen.

Here are some matchups that could have a huge impact on the outcome of this
best-of-seven series.

TIM DUNCAN (SPURS) VS. BEN WALLACE & RASHEED WALLACE (PISTONS)
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Detroit’s starting center Ben Wallace is the catalyst for the Pistons’
success on defense. The three-time All-Star Wallace will alternate with
teammate Rasheed Wallace on defending San Antonio’s star Tim Duncan. This is
the matchup that may have the biggest impact on the 2005 NBA Finals.

When Duncan has the ball in his hands the Spurs are a great team. Their
offense runs through the Wake Forest product, who commands a double team every
time he has the rock. Duncan can play facing the basket or with his back
towards it. He has a soft touch around the hoop and is money from 10-to-12
feet out. If Duncan is having a productive game, most likely Manu Ginobili and
Tony Parker are getting their share of good looks.

The Wallaces must be physical with Duncan and force him to work hard for his
points. The one thing the Detroit pair cannot afford to do is get in foul
trouble. Ben Wallace is the Pistons force in the middle and is one of the best
off the boards at both ends of the court, while Rasheed Wallace is a weapon on
offense and is known for letting his emotions get the best of him.

Duncan will not get in foul trouble and is always in control. The Wallaces are
going to have to get a hand in his face on every shot and must make him give
the ball up before he can get good position down low. If Duncan is able to
rattle Rasheed Wallace, Detroit will be in big trouble.

The key for the Pistons is to have Ben Wallace help out Rasheed when he is
guarding Duncan. Detroit is a much different team when Rasheed Wallace is not
playing. Duncan is very savvy and knows how to score, but the Wallaces are
hard-nosed and tough and will have a chip on their shoulders when the series
starts.

BRUCE BOWEN (SPURS) VS. RICHARD HAMILTON (PISTONS)
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Bruce Bowen is not much of an offensive player, but he is San Antonio’s best
defender and will most likely draw the assignment of Richard Hamilton, who is
Detroit’s leading scorer. Hamilton is one of the best in the league at moving
off the ball and is very effective at using screens, while Bowen is very
physical and is not afraid to give a hard foul.

When Hamilton is getting the ball off of some hard screens, that means
Detroit’s offense is flowing and is very efficient. The Connecticut product is
excellent at finding the seams in the opponent’s defense, and has the uncanny
ability to get the ball to his open teammates when teams smother him.

Bowen has to force Hamilton to get the ball out at the perimeter and make him
work off the dribble. If San Antonio’s defensive stopper can bump Hamilton and
force him to have to create his own shot, the Detroit offense will lose one of
its biggest strengths. The Pistons offense works when everyone is involved,
and the way that Hamilton plays allows that to happen.

Hamilton is unselfish and plays basketball with an old-school mentality. He
does not make many mistakes and is a very consistent. However, Bowen is one of
those players that may be able to frustrate Hamilton and force him to play out
of character.

SAN ANTONIO BENCH VS. DETROIT BENCH
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San Antonio has the advantage off the pine, but the Pistons do have some
reserves the could play a major part in them capturing their second straight
championship.

Veterans Robert Horry and Brent Barry are San Antonio’s top reserves. 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 has averaged 8.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in the
postseason, 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.

Barry can play the point or shooting guard. The 33-year-old veteran does not
make a lot of mistakes and is a very competent outside shooter. If he gets hot
from beyond the arc, Barry can score in bunches which helps San Antonio’s
interior game become that much more potent.

The Pistons need forward Antonio McDyess and guards Lindsey Hunter and Carlos
Arroyo to match the play of Horry and Barry. Detroit’s trio has been
inconsistent, but has gotten flashes of strong play from McDyess during the
postseason.

McDyess must pickup his production on the offensive end of the court, while
Hunter and Arroyo have to hit their open shots and play mistake-free
basketball. The 2005 NBA Finals figures to be a long series, and the Pistons
are going to need their reserves to take their games to the next level.

If Barry and Horry are able to knock down their shots, San Antonio will have
a lot of flexibility, allowing head coach Gregg Popovich to juggle his lineup
and cause matchup problems for Detroit’s general Larry Brown. The Pistons also
need their bench to perform at a high level so they can also cause personnel
problems on the court. The performances of both clubs reserves could cause
the series to become an interesting and classic chess match between two of the
most masterful coaches in the league.

DET SAN