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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Spurs Shoot Blanks in Finals Rematch

The Detroit Pistons dominated the San Antonio Spurs 85-70 in a lopsided rematch of the tightly fought 2005 Finals. You know the cliche about a game being closer than the final score? This game was not as close as the final score indicated. Although the Spurs made a run in the third quarter and only trailed by four entering the final quarter, Detroit seemed able to pull away at will. The Pistons' paint dominance is demonstrated by their 57-30 rebounding advantage; Ben Wallace's 21 rebounds nearly doubled Tim Duncan's 11. Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 20 points, while Tony Parker had 19 for the Spurs. Tim Duncan scored 18 points, but shot only 9-20 from the field and 0-3 on free throws.

The first quarter of this game surely ranks as one of the strangest ever played by a defending champion. Detroit outscored San Antonio 18-8--and Parker had all of the Spurs' points. In the Spurs' defense, it should be noted that All-Star Manu Ginobili, who was the best player on the court for significant stretches in the 2005 Finals, did not play due to injury. His energy would no doubt have helped the Spurs to be more competitive; Michael Finley, his replacement, shot 1-7 and scored only 3 points.

The Pistons are without question the top story so far this season; their 22-3 record is tied for the fourth best start in NBA history and ABC studio analyst Scottie Pippen believes that they can make a serious run at 70 wins. The Pistons fly under the radar because they do not possess the star power of the 1995-96 and 1996-97 Jordan-Pippen Bulls teams that won 72 and 69 games or the 1971-72 Chamberlain-West-Goodrich Lakers team that won 69 games. Those teams were coached by Phil Jackson and Bill Sharman respectively, who both already had extensive championship pedigrees--Jackson had won one title as a player and three as a coach by 1996, while Sharman had won four titles as a player and one as an ABA coach. It is important to remember that those three teams capped off their dominant regular seasons by winning championships. Pistons coach Flip Saunders' playoff record is less than stellar and, no matter what Detroit does in the regular season, Saunders must prove that he can lead a team on an extended playoff run. It remains to be seen if the Pistons can (A) keep up this pace and (B) go on to win a championship but there is no denying that the way they are playing right now is most impressive. They are the best team in the league and, assuming that the Spurs are the second best team, no one else is even close.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:15 PM

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