"That was the greatest performance I've ever been a part of," Duncan said.
"Nah, man, you think of some of the other things that have gone on in Finals," Horry said. "That ranked more like 25th."
Whatever the number, it left San Antonio one win from a championship.
PISTONS 95, SPURS 86
JUNE 21, SBC Center, San Antonio
The championship atmosphere was muted but palpable. The WAITING TO ERUPT�headline in that morning's edition of the San Antonio Express-News. Champagne chilling in the Spurs' locker room. Whispered conversations about the parade route. An anticipatory buzz in the seats that in three hours' time it would all be over, and the Spurs would be NBA champions for the third time in seven years.
The home team should have sensed it was in trouble, because the Pistons, who love to play the world's-against-us card, are toughest in those situations.
Playing with a swagger that defied the heartbreaking loss they suffered in Game 5, the Pistons never let the Spurs take control-- San Antonio's biggest lead all night was three points--and sent the Finals to a Game 7 for the first time since 1994. "Games like this," said Larry Brown, "are what this team is about."
At times the Spurs seemed to forget what they were about. They were again sloppy with the ball (11 turnovers, seven by Ginobili and Parker), they failed to feed Duncan at key times (he went without a field goal from 3:37 of the third period until 3:12 remained in the game), and they couldn't collect the key boards when they needed them most.
Still, the game was theirs to win. Ginobili came out like he did in Games 1 and 2, driving recklessly but productively to the hoop; he had a game-high 12 points in the first half. Rasheed Wallace couldn't stay out of foul trouble against Duncan; 'Sheed got his fourth midway through the third period (he'd finish with five) and played only 24 minutes, though they were productive ones (16 points, three rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots, two steals).
The Pistons, drawing confidence from Billups, still led by one, 87-86, with 2:22 to go. The crowd was back in it, and surely the Spurs could close this out. But Prince, the forgotten Piston throughout this series, hit a seven-foot runner to get it back to three. Ben Wallace then blocked a Ginobili shot, and at the other end Rasheed followed a Billups miss to get it to five. Two Billups free throws sealed the deal with 25 seconds left.
Hey, put those bottles of champagne back in the case.