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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:49 AM ET, 5/20/06

Survival mode: How Pistons, Spurs stayed alive

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
Two Game 6s, two dogged defenses from the defending conference champions. Here's one take on what went down on Friday night …

Why the Spurs won: Bennett Salvatore's crews call a close game, and though those calls weren't one-sided in San Antonio's favor Friday night, the Spurs were wise enough to recognize Bennett's whistlin' ways and get to the line. They shot 34 free throws, making 29, and their 85 percent mark from the charity stripe was a marked improvement over the 70 percent success rate that left them 28th in the NBA during the regular season. The plethora of calls nearly destroyed the Spurs in the first half, as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen all entered the second half with three fouls, but they used the cleaned-up action to their advantage in the Game 6 win.

Why the Mavs lost: Dirk Nowitzki outplayed Tim Duncan, Tony Parker was a smidgen better than Devin Harris, but Jerry Stackhouse was completely outplayed by his shooting guard counterpart -- the lovely and sly Manu Ginobili. In a five-point game where every little edge counts, Stackhouse's 4 of 15 shooting hurt badly, and for a guy who used to make his living at the free throw line, he surprised by only shooting two free throws (missing both) all night. The Mavs may have had higher hopes for Harris in Game 6, but just an average game from Stack could have sent Dallas to the Western Conference finals.

Why the Mavs shouldn't fret: They've already played three games in San Antonio, losing two close ones, and blowing out the defending champs in Game 2 -- still the only lopsided victory of the series. They'll retain the services of Jason Terry, the type of player that doesn't give a rip about supposed homecourt advantage, and Nowitzki continues to play like a Hall of Famer. After tonight, he's averaging 27.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in the playoffs. The man is shooting 51 percent from the floor, and 89 percent from the line, and starting to peer over the Spurs defense for bullet passes to cutting Mavericks.

Why the Pistons won: They outplayed the Cavs for the final 3:15. Simple as that. Both squads had gone back and forth through the first 44:45, playing each other to a hilt and refusing to back down despite ample opportunity to shrivel up and call it a night. Down one with 195 seconds to play, the Pistons took in a three-point play from Rasheed Wallace, three free throws and a clutch turnaround jumper from Chauncey Billups, along with four devastating offensive rebounds on a night where Cleveland had previously owned a significant advantage on the glass.

Why the Cavs lost: Cleveland was unable to control the defensive boards in the game's final minute and 40 seconds, allowing the Pistons more and more chances to pull away in the Game 6 win. With those weary legs, it's hard to pin blame here -- though we would have liked to see Drew Gooden on the floor (as he was at the end of Cleveland's Game 5 win), and better help from Cleveland's guards. Detroit was shooting all sorts of strangely spinning jumpers that rebounded long and at odd angles, and those misses are usually pretty hard to prepare for. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was overmatched, while Flip Murray was caught flat-footed at the end of one possession, and let a potentially game-saving defensive board slip through his hands when he decided to make a show of a one-handed rebound.

Why the Cavs shouldn't fret: Since Game 3, the Cavs have proven that they are willing to stand up to the Eastern Conference champs, and LeBron James' insistence on getting to the rim in Game 6 should do wonders for Cleveland's chances in Game 7 if he continues to attack. James missed four out of five 3-pointers tonight, shooting 8 of 20 overall, but made it to the line 18 times on the night and converted on 15 of the freebies. If he continues to put the pressure on Detroit's defense, Cleveland's season could sustain itself past Sunday afternoon.

Comments:

Posted: 2:45 AM   by Anonymous
Two fantastic games tonight and nobody scored more than 91. Its good to see a little defense in the playoffs again. Does anybody know yet which game 7 Steve Javie is going to ruin, I mean officiate?
Posted: 3:06 AM   by Anonymous
It was great to see the Spurs pull even with the Mavs! That must scare every other team left in the playoffs. Who would you rather play the Spurs or the Mavs? Sure Dirk has been great (25.5, 12.5, 2.7 ast, and 1.5 stl), but Tim has been better (31, 11, 3.2 ast, and 2.5 blk). As a matter of fact Lebron is only averagin 26.5, 8.7, 6.7 ast, and 1.5 stl. Maybe I'm biased, but you factor in his FG% and a WHOLE lot of defense and Tim Duncan is the best player in the second round.
Posted: 3:17 AM   by Anonymous
If the Spurs can have Ginobili scoring just 20 a game, Tony and Tim will get theirs. That puts them in the finals no doubt. And we've already seen what the Spurs do to the Pistons in the finals...
Posted: 3:44 AM   by Anonymous
As a true sport fan, I always enjoy as many games as posible, and whoever the winners are, they deserve the trophy.
Posted: 4:34 AM   by Anonymous
Hi! Being from Germany a big fan of the Spurs, I am obviously very glad we won the game and like our chances to get to the next round. Still, it is a great series and the Mavericks should also be given credit for their performance! Whoever we meet in in the conference finals, it should be easier than this series...
Posted: 5:14 AM   by Anonymous
The DEEEETROIT Pistons will take Cleveland to school in game 7 EXACTLY like they did in games 1 and 2. LeBron has awakened the BEST "team" in all of Basketball.
Posted: 9:02 AM   by Anonymous
Why the Spurs won: "Bennett Salvatore's crews call a close game, and though those calls weren't one-sided in San Antonio's favor Friday night..."

Weren't one-sided??? Excuse me???

Dallas Fouls-29. SA Fouls-19.

Dallas FT-20. SA FT-34

Dallas shoots 5 free throws the ENTIRE second half.

The last 3 games have seen a combined 71 free throws for Dallas and 97 free throws for San Antonio. Yet, the total point differential in those games is +1 for San Antonio.

I'd love a chance for the game to be decided on the court with a reasonably close number of free throws. Game 4 saw both teams shoot 32 free throws each. Dallas wins by 5.

But, in any case, game 7 should be one for the ages.

Kip
Burleson, TX
Posted: 10:27 AM   by Anonymous
If you don't get to the rim, you're not gonna get the calls. The Spurs were in foul trouble in the first half. They also didn't play well in the first half (with the exception of Manu), but the Mavs didn't build a large enough lead to sustain a much improved second half from the Spurs. The Mavs have nobody to blame but themselves.
Posted: 12:02 PM   by Anonymous
Rebound, defend,and give the ball to Lebron 80% at the begining of each possession...how hard can that be. And how about Mike Browns excuse for not calling a time out...sometimes I would prefer dishonesty.
Posted: 12:08 PM   by Anonymous
I mean I guess you could complain that San Antonio has been getting all the foul calls but then you should go back and watch game 3 as Duncan fouls out running away from Nowitzki and the Mavericks shot 50 free throws. Also see game 4 where both teams shot 32 free throws, but Bowen "fouls" Nowitzki with 8 seconds left and Ginobili gets called for a fould because he boxed out which apparently became illegal.
Posted: 12:22 PM   by Big Poppa
Well, well, game 7 in 'the palace of auburn hills!' For all you witnesses the party is over. I must admit it has been a very exciting series, but now it is time to bring on da heat.
Sorry D. Stearn this dream match-up is now Pistons / Heat...
Piston Fan
Posted: 1:01 PM   by Anonymous
Fouls, Fouls! Everyone whines about fouls in the Dallas/SA series. To my observation, it was not the number of fouls during the game, it was a questionable call/no call with the game on the line.

Also, am I alone in noticing Dallas tightening up at end of games 5 & 6. They could/should have won either game.
Posted: 1:02 PM   by Anonymous
Kip,

Nice try leaving out Game 3, where Dallas shot 50 FTs to SA's 32 and the Mavs one by a point.

Add those in, and the score becomes even over the last 4 games, with the Mavs shooting 121 FTs to the Spurs' 129. Yes, the Spurs have 2 more per game, but that's pretty minor.

The Mavs had 4 different key Spurs players in foul trouble in the first half, and they had virtually nothing to show for it. JET did something stupid and got suspended, and Harris and Stack choked in an elimination game. THAT'S why the Mavs lost.
Posted: 1:09 PM   by Anonymous
Good to see both Pistons & Spurs survive Game 6 on the opponents' court.
Posted: 1:15 PM   by Anonymous
Oh "Kip," you are so funny. Four of the Spurs are sitting on the bench with three fouls in the first half, including Duncan, and your "MVP" German can't take advantage of it despite the tallest Spur on the court being 6'9" (old man Horry).

Nowitski ended the night with ONE foul. After missing most of the first half with cheap touch fouls on Dirk, Duncan had to play a good part of the fourth making sure he didn't get his fifth and then had to play the last several minutes with five. So don't talk to me about your percieved disparity. You can't always get bailed out at the end of games with questionable calls (see games 3 and 4). Just ONCE I would like to see Dirk try to deal with foul trouble in this series ... but of course he wouldn't be caught within ten feet of Duncan on the defensive end.

How ironic and fitting that it's Finley, giving up five inches, who forced Dirk to take a terrible last shot. Funny how Dirk shrivels up and disappears whenever you man him up, even when he has a huge height advantage.

Come on down to the Riverwalk on Monday. We won't even throw you in.
Posted: 1:37 PM   by Anonymous
GO Cavs!!!!!!!....take the tired old big mouthed Pistons to school on Sunday!!!!! "Guaran sheed"
Posted: 2:06 PM   by Anonymous
Simply put, there isn't anything like the NBA playoffs. This ENTIRE playoff has been full of subplots and the games have been tremendous.. to the point where you run out of adjectives and superlitives to describe them.You're simply not a true sports fan in general if you're not watching these games, cause really that's all it'll take if you watch them you'll be simply enamoured with the quality of basketball and the passion and intensity the games are being played with as every possession matters and everyone wants to win.
Posted: 2:13 PM   by Anonymous
Kip, the number of fouls called isn't a measure of how even the game is; what matters is if the calls are on actual fouls, and if the fouls that are committed are called.

If the Mavs commit 20 fouls but are called for 25, and the Spurs commit 30 fouls but are called for 25, would you think that's a fairly called game?
Posted: 4:53 PM   by Anonymous
DEEEEEEEEETROIT!
Posted: 5:00 PM   by Anonymous
The subplots are plenty: The Spurs and Pistons the two best TEAMS in all of the sports world right now showing the heart of a champion by winning 2 elimination games on the ROAD to force Game 7's.

LeBron officially arriving and beginning to establish a legacy that may have him go down as the greatest player ever.

The Mavs playing terrific defense, very different from years past and are actually a legitimate contender for the title.

The Clippers actually being IN the playoffs and playing superb basketball no less as LA's "other team".

The heart of the entire Phoenix Suns,what they did in Round 1 vs LA was outstanding and lets face it small ball can be pretty damn entertaining to watch.

And the Heat playing their best basketball of the season and clicking on all cylinders at the right time awaiting their opponent in the Conference Finals.

Not to mention the Bulls being back in the playoffs and being competitive with a very good young, core nucleus. Kobe and the Lakers getting back in the playoffs and thrilling us, and Gilbert Arenas officially arriving on the "Big Stage". These playoffs have had it all.

The NBA is in phenomenal shape moving forward.
Posted: 5:08 PM   by Fanatic
Hey, Kip
Stop whining about calls. It's all about mighty dollars that David Stern want to drag series to game 7. Both teams got plenty of questionable or favorable calls. Let's square up at San Antonio and the refs always make a fair call game. Who is more mentally tough, they win. Remember every year, the subject of ref's call is always brought up but Stern does not care. It's about rating and money. It's all about conspiracy of David Stern to drag series out when there are two even teams in the playoff. No Lakers, no Knicks thus no big market. Guess what, gotta do something to make NBA playoff more interesting.

Frenzy fan
Posted: 5:48 PM   by Anonymous
Mavs and Cavs couldn't deliver the knockout punch and now it's too late!
Posted: 6:24 PM   by Anonymous
Sounds like Sour Milk for the Spurs Fans. Keep this in mind the Spurs gave it all they had. Dallas hasn't played their best game.
Posted: 7:50 PM   by Anonymous
The Pistons will SCHOOL LeBron like they did in game 1,2 and all the regular season games.If Both Cavs and Pistons play their best,the Cavs have NO chance.The only way the Cavs have a chance is if the Pistons play badly and even then they can just about win.
Posted: 10:48 PM   by Tim Hernandez in San Antonio
Dwyer I am starting to think that you are a closet Mavericks fan. You have elected to give the Spurs no respect for thier championship experiences and give the Mavericks more credit than they deserve in the same category. I think you think a little more before you type your next blog report.
Posted: 2:32 AM   by Anonymous
Couldn't agreed more with Fanatic comment.

Yes, it's always about MONEY (read: David Stern). Of course there was conspiracy to drag Pistons and Spurs series to Game 7.

But there is only so much official can do on the floor. They can't just obviously call someone a foul if he several feet away from the ball.

So official can 'give' few points to some team but can't 'give' the win. So if Cavs and Mavs played well enough, they should be able to close the series no matter what the official did.

Unfortunately, those a very close games and can easily be 'given'. Still Cavs and Mavs are to be blamed for allowing them took their victory.

More conspiracy theory:
Detroit will meet Heat for sure unless they screw up big time since official will be on their back.

About Mavs, they are the hottest team in NBA now and I'm sure D. Stern see it's about time to get new fresh face on final from the West, maybe even get the trophy.
So if Mavs doesn't screw up and can stay very close with Spurs, they will be given the win for sure.
And whoever win this series, will become NBA Champ this year, for sure.

Especially since they'll be back by 'official'.

Just my 2 cents.
Posted: 2:20 PM   by Anonymous
There you go. Much better in reporting instead of trying to make the news.
Posted: 11:41 PM   by Anonymous
Basketball is rapidly becomming like boxing, if you dont deliver the knock out blow you let the game get decided by officials.
Posted: 5:10 AM   by Anonymous
funny how in game 3, the spurs worked for every shot they made and the mavs were sent to the free throw line repeatedly,adding that their last 2 points WERE at the line in a 1 point victory , and in game 4 , 2 free throws tied the game with 8 ticks of the clock left. This whole series would have been over by game 5 if the officiating had been called like an NBA playoff game instead of a YMCA game.
Posted: 11:50 AM   by Anonymous
Heres some food for thought for your extra point. You know if Dallas loses this game 7, this will be a huge blow to them. They're leader (Dirk), no matter how good his year was, will be labled back to what he always is a notch under the top power forwards in the league (Tim & Kevin). The team will go back to being what they always are every year, a good team that has a good regular season and burns out in the playoffs even more because they had the Spurs at 3-1. Jason Terry who is in a contract year will be looked at as the one who let it get away again for being suspended for game 6 when that was their best chance to close the spurs out. Lets no forget, last year in game six it was Terry who let Steve Nash catch the inbounds ball, bring it up the court and drill a three to force overtime in which Phoenix won. Most of all Cuban will show that hes just an owner that under it all does'nt really know basketball because for the 2nd year in a row his team would have suffered defeat from the player he released the previous summer (Steve last year and Finley this year) because he did'nt think they fit into they're rotation. The year after he did'nt want to come to a contract agreement with Steve Nash he went on to Phoenix, led his team to the best regular season record, won an MVP trophie and elimintaed the Mavs in Dallas. With all of this riding on them going into game 7 they better not lose, poor Mavs.
Posted: 1:26 PM   by Anonymous
The Pistons may have won the game anyway, but Lindsay Hunter seemed to ignite them when they were running flat toward the end of the 3rd quarter. The Pistons have been guilty of going into stall tactics instead of going full bore for the jugular at times, but when Hunter came into the game with just over 3 min. left in the 3rd, his two quick baskets opened up a cushion as well as stoking the Pistons engine and cranking up the drive intensity for Detroit.

Without that, they risked having the game stay close enough to give the Cavs hope at the end theat they could pull off a miracle.
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