Monday , Jun , 13 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff: Don’t count Detroit out

 If the Pistons want to win back-to-back titles, they will have to become just the third team in NBA history to rally from an 0-2 hole in the championship round to win a best-of-seven set.

In Game 2, Manu Ginobili scored a game-high 27 points and dished out seven assists, while Tim Duncan netted 18 and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Spurs to a convincing 97-76 victory at the SBC Center. Defensive stopper Bruce Bowen was 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and ended with 15 points in the victory.

The last time the Pistons lost the first two games of a playoff set was in the 2003 Eastern Conference finals, as they were swept out of the postseason by the New Jersey Nets.

“Well, this game (2), it has been easier,” said Ginobili after Game 2’s victory. “We played really well. We passed the ball extremely well. If you see the stats, out of those 29 field goals, 23 came from assists, and that’s huge for us. That’s what we’ve been talking the last two days. So we had a great game, but I don’t think it’s been easy. We are working really hard and it’s been tough. They came back from a 22 point lead pretty quick. So we’ve got to be concentrated for 48 minutes, because they are a great team, very professional. They have been in this situation, so you’ve got to be smart.

The All-Star Ginobili has been unbelievable for the Spurs in the first two games of the set. He is averaging 26.5 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists and is shooting 66.7 percent from the field so far against the Pistons. For the playoffs, Ginobili has averaged 22.3 points, 5.8 boards and 4.3 helpers. The 27-year-old guard has almost been unstoppable, as he has been able to knock down his outside shots, has been effective driving to the hoop and is finding his open teammates for some easy baskets.

Detroit shot just 40.2 (33-of-82) percent from the floor in Game 2’s loss. The Pistons were 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) from the foul line. Forward Antonio McDyess came off the bench and led the club with 15 points, while Richard Hamilton netted 14 and pulled down seven rebounds.

The Pistons, who fell 84-69 in the opener, have looked overmatched in the first two games of the set. They have not been able to match San Antonio’s intensity on both ends of the court, and they look like a team that may have spent everything on getting to the championship round.

“I don’t think we’ve been nearly as aggressive as them,” said Detroit head coach Larry Brown after Game 2’s loss. “I think we’ve kind of, you know, gotten frustrated and went on our own a little bit too much. I think defensively we’ve been real soft. We haven’t been able to keep people in front of us and that’s been a key. We didn’t have a block the first half. We didn’t take a charge. I think they drove the ball from the three-point line or beyond to the front of the rim or from deep corner to the front of the rim and we didn’t have people coming over and challenging shots. I think they have hit us with the first punch and we’ve been back on our heels and haven’t responded very well.

“Second half, though in, both games, we got down 17 or 18 in Game 1, cut it to seven and couldn’t come up with a key rebound. Tonight we had a couple of situations like that. Brent Barry got his hands on the ball and we got a foul, we got a foul and the 24 second clock was running down. Key plays in games, you know, when they came up with a big play and we just didn’t do it.”

Rasheed Wallace netted 11 and grabbed eight boards in Game 2 for Detroit, while All-Star center Ben Wallace finished with nine points and eight rebounds.

Current and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, who is averaging just 7.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in the first two contests against the Spurs, is frustrated with his club’s play.

“We didn’t play no defense,” said Ben Wallace after Game 2’s loss.

The series will resume in Detroit, as the Pistons are scheduled to host Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) at The Palace of Auburn Hills. If the set goes to a sixth and seventh game, San Antonio would host those contests.

The Pistons have not played well in Games 1 and 2 against the Spurs. They are out of sync, as this is a club that wins with tough defense, which creates their offense. Detroit will be ready to play in front of its home crowd and will try and fight its way back into the series.

With the Wallaces, Chauncey Billups, who was the 2004 NBA Finals MVP, Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince on their roster, don’t count the Pistons out.