Matchups to watch in the NBA Finals
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)
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)
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
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.