Wednesday , Jun , 22 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Pistons know how to win the big one

(Sports Network) – The defending world champion Detroit Pistons survived
against San Antonio in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, as they defeated the Spurs,
95-86, at the SBC Center to force a decisive Game 7.

Richard Hamilton scored 23 points and grabbed five rebounds in 44 minutes of
action in Game 6’s victory, while Chauncey Billups, who was the 2004 NBA
Finals MVP, was 5-of-9 from beyond the arc and ended with 21 points and a
game-high six assists.

The Pistons, who trailed 3-2 in the series heading back to San Antonio for
Games 6 and 7, are trying to become the first team in NBA history to win Games
6 and 7 on the road in the championship round. The last team to rally from a
3-2 deficit in the NBA Finals was the 1994 Houston Rockets, who defeated the
New York Knicks in the final two games of that set at home to capture the
crown.

“Well, we put ourselves in that position, so got no other alternative but to
show up and compete,” said Detroit head coach Larry Brown after Game 6’s
victory. “You know, I know people look out there and reflect on the way some
people act, but this is a competitive group of guys that I think care about
each other enough to go out every night and put themselves in a situation
where they will give themselves a chance to win.

“We talked about it in the dressing room, everybody made a big deal of the
shot (Robert) Horry made and who made the mistake. I ask my guys every day
just to play hard and play unselfishly, and I can deal with any mistakes with
effort. I talked to them before the game, I didn’t want them to worry about
not making hustle plays and think about the consequence. That’s what these
guys have been able to do.”

Rasheed Wallace battled foul trouble and finished with 16 points in 24 minutes
of court time, while All-Star center Ben Wallace contributed eight points and
a team-best nine rebounds. Detroit shot 46.8 percent (37-for-79) from the
floor and committed just five turnovers in Game 6’s win.

Even when Rasheed Wallace was not on the court he was in the game. He was a
vocal leader on the bench and was constantly encouraging his teammates to keep
playing hard. Rasheed Wallace has shown how important he is to Detroit’s
success.

“Well, you see him when he’s not in the game, he’s into it, cheering guys on,
and he’s an unbelievable competitor,” said Wallace. “I think to a man,
everybody felt terrible about the way he took that loss the last game. I think
that was the big, big thing in the game tonight. I mean, they care so much
about him. But we needed him down the stretch. We had a lot of guys really
step up; that obviously makes a huge three, makes a big baseline jumper on a
pin down with Rip (Hamilton), got a couple key rebounds. I said this last year
when Joe made the trade to get him, he won us a championship. We were not
ready to take that next step. And now he’s giving us a chance, along with all
those other guys, to go Game 7 and try again.”

All-Stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili both scored 21 points to lead San
Antonio in Game 6’s loss. Duncan also grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, while
Tony Parker netted 15 and dished out a team-best five assists. The Spurs were
31-for-75 (41.3 percent) from the field, and they committed 11 turnovers in
defeat.

“Well, I think in general, there were times in the game that toward the end as
one example where we were a bit frenetic and probably trying to do some things
one on one instead of with the group in an effort to win a basketball game,”
said San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich after Game 6’s loss. “That’s real
dangerous against a team that’s as poised as Detroit. I thought that in that
respect, we did not do a very good job tonight.”

When Detroit and San Antonio meet in the decisive contest, it will be the
first Game 7 in the NBA Finals since 1994. The Pistons are 4-3 all-time in
Game 7s, but have won four straight Game 7s, while the Spurs are 1-3 in Game
7s since joining the NBA in the 1976-77 campaign. San Antonio last won a
Game 7 on May 2, 1979, when it defeated the Philadelphia 76ers at home in the
Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Coming in here, that’s what we wanted to get to,” said Ben Wallace. “That’s
what we had to get to. I want to get myself a chance to get another
championship. So it’s obviously a big game for us.”

Detroit has won its last two Game 7s in series that it trailed 3-2. The
Pistons eliminated the Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2004, and
then beat the Heat in this year’s conference finals. Detroit, which defeated
Miami on the road in Game 7 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals, is
6-6 as the visitor in the 2005 playoffs. The Pistons have won five straight
games when facing elimination.

The Pistons lost their only Game 7 in franchise history in the NBA Finals, as
they were defeated by the Lakers, 108-105, on June 21, 1988 in the decisive
contest. Detroit is 7-7 all-time as the visitor in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs are 2-1 all-time in the Finals when they have a chance to win
the championship, and are 8-3 as the host in this year’s playoffs. San
Antonio has lost two straight games when facing elimination.

Only three teams (1969 Celtics, 1974 Celtics, 1978 Washington Bullets) have
won Game 7 in the NBA Finals on the road. There have been 15 Game 7s in the
NBA Finals.

Detroit has proved that it does not fear the elimination game. It knows how to
win on the road and showed in Game 6 that it can rise to the occasion. If any
team can win a Game 7 on the road, it’s the Pistons.

DET SAN