Coachís Corner: Fred Carter on Pistons at Spurs
By Fred Carter (As told to John Hareas)
Detroit at San Antonio. This game is worth the price of admission.
I think the Pistons are the hungrier team, especially since being beaten by San Antonio in Game 7 of last seasonís NBA Finals. A game where they were probably a jump shot away from winning themselves in the last two minutes of the ballgame.
DETROIT'S KEYS TO THE GAME
The name of the game for Detroit is tempo. They want to run and they are shooting the three-pointer very well. They rank fourth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, which is unheard of for a Detroit Pistons team. The Pistons are a good defensive team, although the Spurs are better, but Detroit is a hungrier team and they were smitten by San Antonio in the playoffs last year.
Detroit has so many working parts that only three of their guys have to be good for them to win. The Pistons have four guys in the starting lineup capable of scoring 25 points. Rasheed, Chauncey, Rip and the Fresh Prince and that makes it very difficult for an opposing team to defend because you really canít key on one particular player. Detroit will give San Antonio all they want because this team is on a mission. Everyone thought that the Pistons won a championship because of Larry Brown while they want to prove that they won a championship because theyíre good.
SAN ANTONIO'S KEYS TO THE GAME
San Antonio has the best field goal percentage in the league and also have the best defensive field goal percentage, so that tells me that they are the best team in the league on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. The Spurs also rebound the ball and defend well but their Achilles heel is free throw shooting. The Spurs rank next to last in the league in free throws attempted and they also rank second to last in free throw percentage. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are the players who get fouled the most for the Spurs and both of those guys are not very good free throw shooters.
For the Spurs, itís simple. Even though Duncan won MVP, the man who is responsible for the Spurs getting to the Finals is Manu Ginobili. Manu had a big Finals last season and you can kind of look for Manu to do the same against the Pistons on Thursday night. Most players are afraid to take it against Tayshaun Prince and they respect his defensive ability. Manu does not. He doesnít back down. He takes it at him, he can make the three, he can finish and he can nail the jumper. Tony Parker is too small and too quick for Chauncey Billups. He can get in the lane any time he wants. Tony is playing the best basketball of his career this season.
The Spurs have depth, thanks to the additions of Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel. Those players not only give them a lot of depth but foul trouble and shooters not being in the game wonít be a problem for the Spurs.
Last season, the Pistons lost the NBA title in San Antonio. They know if they had the best record in the NBA last season, then they would be NBA champs. You want to have home court advantage in the Finals. Rarely does the home team lose Game 7 in their building. Detroit has the best record in the NBA but a loss to San Antonio brings the Spurs a little closer. The Pistons want to maintain that lead over San Antonio.
This is a game with magnitude to it. You might say, well itís just a regular-season game. When you get two titans like this going head to head, itís more than a regular-season game. Itís establishment and the Pistons are trying to establish against the Spurs that you are not better than us even though you beat us in Game 7.
The last eight times these two teams have played, the record is 4-4. It shows you how even these two teams are. You canít afford to lose games like this. Another reason for Detroit to win this game is if there is a tie breaker, then they look at the head-to-head record. There's a lot to this game. This game is going to show whether Detroit can defeat the Spurs twice in the same season. And if the Spurs defeat the Pistons, it might be like, ďWell, Detroit, you may not be ready for prime time.Ē
This game has magnitude, drama, great players and great coaches. I canít wait. Itís worth the price of admission.
-- Fred Carter appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association