10 things to look for in the Spurs-Pistons showdown
Posted: Tuesday June 7, 2005 4:49PM; Updated: Thursday June 9, 2005 8:34PM
By Brad Weinstein, SI.com
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace is just one of many reasons that scoring will come a a premium in the Finals.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
1. If you're thirsting for fireworks, well, July 4 is around the corner, and the Suns open training camp in four months. The Detroit Pistons-San Antonio Spurs series shapes up as a defense-wins-championships production, even with the Western Conference champions coming off a series in which they willingly engaged freewheeling Phoenix in an up-tempo game.
The pairing features seven of the top 16 vote-getters for the NBA All-Defensive teams, including Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace of the Pistons and the Spurs' Bruce Bowen, regarded by many as the league's premier perimeter defender. San Antonio has finished in the top five in points allowed and field-goal-percentage defense every season since Tim Duncan arrived in 1997.
2. The most scrutinized matchup of the series could involve two guys wearing suits. The coaches are so close that Gregg Popovich was the best man at Larry Brown's wedding and also spent four seasons as Brown's assistant in San Antonio. As such, the Pistons and Spurs might feel as if they're playing intrasquad scrimmages instead of championship games.
"When our teams play each other,'' Popovich once said, "it's kind of like we're playing ourselves.''
Popovich, however, doesn't share his mentor's wanderlust. He has guided the Spurs since '96, running up the fifth-best winning percentage in NBA history without much fanfare. Look for a lot of "Popovich is underrated" stories and talk throughout the series.
3. Brown and Popovich have some interesting decisions to make regarding defensive assignments. Will Bowen or Manu Ginobili chase Richard Hamilton all over the court? Is Tayshaun Prince, a slender 6-foot-9 forward with a tremendous wingspan, the Pistons' best option against the playmaking Ginobili? Which Wallace (6-10 Rasheed being the other) draws Duncan? How can Brown offset the garbage-time mismatch of the callow Darko Milicic against the savvy Tony Massenburg?
4. Will we get a classic Game 7 moment? A Finals series last went the distance in '94, when Houston defeated New York 90-84 in a decisive game remembered most for John Starks' meltdown. The Knicks' All-Star guard shot 2-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-11 from 3-point range.