The Post Game Show

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Spurs Saddle Up To Ring Number Three

O.K., we all did a double after take after the Detroit Pistons' stirring Game Six victory Tuesday night. We all questioned if Tim Duncan indeed lacked the leadership qualities to be "The Man" just like David Robinson had been for so many years in San Antonio. We questioned if Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker could match what Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups provided offensively, and we damn sure questioned if Larry Brown was going to completely out-coach his long time friend and understudy, Gregg Popovich.

Those questions were answered in kind by the Spurs, whose 81-74 Game Seven Triumph wrapped up the franchise's third NBA crown in the past seven seasons.

Tim Duncan took over at a point in the third quarter where he started his downward spin in previous games. Taking advantage of Rasheed Wallace's foul issues, Timmy refused to let Ben Wallace push him around and put the Spurs ahead to stay. Timely put backs, precise kick-out passes to Ginobili and Bruce Bowen, and yes, even the SBC Center had late night banking hours. While there is speculation that maybe Ginobili, or even Robert Horry deserved the Finals Most Valuable Player trophy, no one can dispute that without Tim Duncan, the Spurs would be just another team trying to break even out West.

Parker didn't have the greatest of games, but he didn't kill the Spurs, although his decision-making still leaves a lot to be desired. Hey, if I was spooning with Eva Longoria, chances are I wouldn't always be thinking clearly either. Before I get to Manu, let's analyze Tony's life. He speaks the language of love, French. He's got two NBA championships. He's a millionaire, AND he's gettin' it on with the Babe of the Moment in Hollywood. You better be saying your prayers every night, pal. God has been good to you.

As for Manu Ginobili, let's just end the could-be part of it right now, HE IS one of the best players in the NBA. His ability to get to the bucket is what opened up the paint for Tim Duncan, and the presence of mind to run out some clock when Horry hit him with that perfect inbound pass choked off whatever chance the Pistons had at a comeback. Pop and the Spurs waited three years for him to come on over from Argentina, and apparently, he was worth the wait.

As for Pop, I won't say he out-coached Larry Brown, but he did a helluva job of getting his guys together when the Pistons took a small lead in the beginning of the second half. He is one of the more underrated executives and coaches in the league, and he's one of the few guys who are doing well at double-duty. He may not be on Larry Brown's level just yet, but give him time. He certainly will be.

As far as the Pistons go, they have nothing to be ashamed of. It took Seven Games, a big shot from Big Shot Rob, and the best Power Forward on the planet to wrestle their crown away from them. They played well enough to earn the right to defend their championship against the best in the West, and came up just short. The big question of course is will Larry Brown be healthy enough to coach, or will he even be coaching Detroit next year. With everybody important under contract through at least next season, the Pistons will be back. Whether it's with LB remains to be seen.

Finally, this isn't Lakers-Celtics '84, Lakers-Pistons '88 or anything like that, but it's still one of the better Seven Game series the league has seen in a while. Yes, no one dropped 120, and there were no halfcourt shots or ferocious throwdowns to speak of, these teams played the kind of basketball you see in non-professionals. The ones who play for the love, who are just thrilled to be out there, but still are competitive enough to give it all they have. That's all you can ask for, is nobody laid down, nobody tried to be bigger than the game, nothing like that. It was basketball. Great basketball.

Training camps start around the end of September. I'm ready for '05-'06 already.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Clutching Ring #6

Welp, once again, Big Shot Rob has rescued his team from certain disaster, and the Spurs, who beat the Pistons 96-95 in OT, are one win away from their third chip in seven years. Robert Horry has been the most clutch NBA player of our generation, and last night, he showed why he may merit mention for the Hall of Fame someday. No points until the last second of the third quarter, Horry then scored 21 points, including a memorable dunk from a guy who's leaping days are decidedly behind him. In the overtime He had a look at a three, but saw the lane open and took off from a distance with Rip Hamilton wandering under him. Horry stretched his sore left shoulder to the limit to throw it down and draw the foul on Hamilton. The will to win superseeds injury, that's for sure.

Then of course, with the Pistons ahead two with nine seconds left, there was Rasheed Wallace making the worse defensive sag since Byron Scott left Dennis Johnson open to the tie the 1985 Finals at two games apiece. As soon as Horry inbounded the ball to Manu Ginobili, 'Sheed left Robert alone to double Manu. ALONE, Y'ALL! You all know what happens next. Three? Consider it dropped like it was hot.

Credit also must go to Tony Parker who played admirable D on Hamilton, including the last shot of the game, when Rip tried to shake Parlez-vous Francais loose. Didn't happen, and the Spurs go back to San Antonio with two chances to close it out. I think they'll only need Tuesday. As long as Robert Horry steps on the court, a championship seems to be a given.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Don't C-O-U-N-T These Pistons Out

Winning a Game Seven in any sport is tough to do. Winning it on the road is even tougher, so what the Detroit Pistons accomplished last night in their 88-82 Eastern Conference-clinching win over the Miami Heat is nothing to sneeze at. Since the NBA took in four ABA teams in 1976, only two road teams prior to last night won a Game Seven Conference Final. The first team to do that was the 1982 Philadelphia 76ers, who these Pistons share a common ground with; Nobody really wanted to give them a chance.

That year, the Sixers, who in the '81 Eastern Conference Finals lost to the Boston Celtics after going up 3 games to 1 in the series, blew that same lead against the Celtics the following year, and everybody braced for impending doom in Game Seven, at the fabled Boston Garden no less. However, the Sixers came out like gangbusters, led the "Boston Strangler," Andrew Toney, who dropped 34 points on 12-of-16 shooting. The Sixers won 120-106, embarrassing the Celtics to the point where the fans sent the Sixers off to the NBA finals with chants of "Beat L.A.!"

23 years later, the Pistons were victims of hyperbole and hope. Everyone thought Shaquille O'Neal was going to turn back the clock, and Dwayne Wade would pull a Willis Reed and will the Heat to the NBA Finals. Didn't work out that way, simply because Larry Brown out-coached Stan Van Gundy, which wasn't hard to do since Van Gundy's brainless play-calling left Shaq like a homeless man: with his hand out, getting nothing for his trouble. The Diesel, who had a pretty good game of 27 points, nine boards and three blocks, was shut out as the Pistons made their run, courtesy of Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton, who continues to create a space for himself as one of the true clutch players in the game.

D-Wade gave a great effort, playing in pain, but in the fourth quarter, his strained rib cage basically said "this is the last stop, kid."

And everyone who picked Damon Jones to screw it up basically is making a lot of money this morning. For a cat who calls himself the most beautiful guy in the NBA, he played one ugly-ass game last night. Maybe Pat Riley should look for a point guard this off-season to compliment Flash and Shaq for next year's run.

But this is truly about the defending champions, who have earned the right to defend their crown on the league's biggest stage against the West's best, the San Antonio Spurs. And after beating the Heat in hostile territory last night, anyone who bets against the Pistons to repeat is a fool. I know I've learned my lesson.