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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"If it ain't rough, it ain't right"

The title of this post is Detroit guard Chauncey Billups' explanation of the Pistons' team motto in a postgame interview after the Pistons' 95-86 game six win against the San Antonio Spurs. Billups, whose numerous clutch performances have earned him the nickname "Mr. Big Shot," sank five three pointers and scored 21 points with six rebounds and six assists. The 2004 Finals MVP played 39 minutes without committing a turnover and in the last four games of the series Billups has 27 assists and only three turnovers. On Thursday the Pistons will try to make NBA history by becoming the first team to win games six and seven of the NBA Finals on the road after trailing 3-2. The Pistons have come back from 3-2 deficits twice in the last two postseasons in earlier rounds, winning one game at home and one on the road each time since those series employed the 2-2-1-1-1 format. Detroit is attempting to become the first team to win a game seven on the road since...Detroit beat Miami on June 6 to win the Eastern Conference Finals; it is safe to assume that the Pistons will not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation. As for the Spurs, none of their "Big Three"--Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker--have played in a game seven; they did not distinguish themselves down the stretch of game six, when only Detroit was facing elimination, so how they respond in game seven will be very interesting.

Detroit made eight three pointers in game six after making only eight three pointers in the previous five games. Another team motto could easily be the one that Pittsburgh Steelers' Coach Chuck Noll used when his team won four Super Bowls in six years: "Whatever it takes." It is easy to find Detroit weaknesses on paper--no superstar of the magnitude of Tim Duncan, thin bench, not a great three point shooting team--but the Pistons consistently find a way to win elimination games. This is very reminscent of the 1998 Chicago Bulls team that seemed more vulnerable than previous Chicago teams but did whatever had to be done to win when the playoffs rolled around--if they weren't making shots, they crashed the boards and got offensive rebounds. Detroit spent the first five games of this series shooting blanks from the perimeter but in an elimination game the Pistons drained threes with confidence.

In theory, the Spurs still have the advantage since game seven will be contested on their court but keep this in mind before tuning into the game on Thursday: instead of focusing on San Antonio's great home record this season and the record of home teams in game seven over the years, look at what has happened as this series has developed--after the first two games Detroit has won three of four, with the loss coming on a last second shot, and the Pistons have proven that they can consistently score 90+ points against the Spurs' vaunted defense.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:17 AM


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