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Friday, June 17, 2005

"Deee-troit Bas-ket-ball!"

The title of this post refers to the chant that Detroit Pistons' P.A. announcer Mason leads whenever the Pistons make a defensive stop. If you watched Detroit's 102-71 win over San Antonio in game four of the NBA Finals you heard this chant even more often than ABC ran promos for "Empire" and "The Fantastic Four." If there was any doubt after game three, there should be none now: Detroit is not going away without a fight. Talk of a sweep disappeared two nights ago and now we are guaranteed that the Finals will go at least six games.

I frequently quote something that Danny Ainge said during one of the Celtics-Lakers Finals in the 1980s--"This is not the Tour de France." What Ainge meant is that you don't start the next game down 31; the next game starts 0-0 and may have a different ebb and flow. Just like it was important for Detroit to not overreact to losing the first two games, it is important for the Spurs to not panic after losing the last two games. After all, the Spurs still have homecourt advantage. That being said, while panic is not needed (and not helpful in any case), poise and crisper execution are essential for San Antonio because the Spurs almost have to win game five if they intend to win the series. Detroit has been basically untouchable in two situations during recent postseasons: game six of any playoff series and games in which the Pistons can eliminate an opponent. If the Spurs lose game five they will be looking right down the barrel of a game six in which Detroit can close them out. Also, while the Spurs should have confidence in their homecourt advantage, they should not just blithely assume that they can lose three straight in Detroit and then win two in San Antonio. Three straight losses will exact a psychological toll on the Spurs and provide a psychological boost to the Pistons. If the Spurs face elimination in game six it is hard to believe that they will play as freely and loosely as they did in games one and two. Keep in mind that just last year the Spurs lost four straight games after taking a 2-0 lead versus the Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Spurs are certainly aware of this--there was much talk before game three about how they would use what they learned from that experience to avoid a similar fate in this series.

Detroit is in full "James Bond" mode now--after falling into an 0-2 hole that is usually fatal in the NBA Finals, the Pistons have roared back to tie the series. This sets the stage for a very dramatic game five. Which team will take command and push the other to the brink of elimination? If you've seen a James Bond movie--or read any of my playoff preview articles--you know what I think is going to happen on Sunday.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:54 AM

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