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Spurs For Three
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 24 2005, 2:45 a.m. ET


In the end, Duncan and the Spurs were left standing.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

For old school coaches like the Pistons' Larry Brown and his disciple, the Spurs' Gregg Popovich, the three-pointer has been a necessary evil. For them, the closer you can get the ball to the hoop the better.

So, it's ironic in a Finals series featuring these two long-distance averse coaches that one of them would serve up a title on a trey.

Bouyed by 7 of 11 shooting from three-point range, the Spurs won their third NBA title in seven seasons with an 81-74 win in Game 7 over the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons.

Yet, the Spurs' scintillating shooting from deep started where it always starts for the Spurs: in the paint.

After four lackluster games in a row, Finals MVP Tim Duncan had his best game of the series. And it wasn't so much that Duncan overpowered the Pistons. Not even Shaquille O'Neal could do that. But Duncan was like water torture and before you knew it, the rock solid Pistons cracked in the fourth quarter.

Start it with a bank shot here.

Drip.

Then, grab an offensive board and a putback there.

Drip.

Finish it up by drawing three guys to you and find Manu Ginobili wide open, reading the latest Sports Illustrated behind the three-point line.

Swish.

Drip.

He may have only been 10 for 27 from the field, but tonight, the Spurs title hopes began and ended with Duncan, who joined Michael Jordan (6), Shaquille O'Neal (3) and Magic Johnson (3) as the fourth player to win three Finals MVPs.

If it wasn't scoring 12 points in the third quarter, Duncan got his teammates involved by starting the ball movement. Brent Barry found himself open on his only three-pointer because Duncan found Parker open in the right corner. Parker then found an open Barry, who calmly nailed the open look.

With a 6 for 10 start from the field, it looked as if the Pistons would run the Spurs out of their own building. But the Pistons shot .391 the rest of the way, and it wasn't nearly enough to lift them past the Spurs.

Nothing epitomized the night more than a play with the Spurs up five and 55 seconds left in the game.

Detroit's MVP, Chauncey Billups pulled up for a three that would have pulled the Pistons within two. But Bruce Bowen rose and met Billups, blocking the shot, shutting the door on Detroit's quest to win back-to-back titles.

Instead of writing history by becoming the first team to win Games 6 and 7 on the road, the Pistons have become history themselves. They're the first team since the 1989 Lakers to not defend their NBA title.

Many will say the Pistons have no reason to hang their heads. After all, they showed resiliency, toughness and grit throughout the season and throughout the playoffs.

They rallied from a 2-1 series deficit in the East Semis against the Pacers. After being down 3-2 to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, they won Game 6 at The Palace and Game 7 in Miami.

Then, when everyone, including the Spurs, left the Pistons for dead after their heart-breaking Game 5 OT loss in Auburn Hills, the Pistons broke Spurs' fans hearts and postponed parade plans by winning Game 6 in San Antonio.

Yet, kind words offer no consolation to the Pistons. You can't carry them in a parade. You can't slip them onto your ring finger.

Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace understandably were mum after the game. Richard Hamilton held his head in his hands.

On the other side of the building, the Spurs strode to the podium, soaked in Champagne and steeped in smiles. There was Brent Barry and his dad, Rick, who had won a title 30 years earlier with the Golden State Warriors. They're just the second father-son combo to win a title as players.

There's Tony Massenberg, who has played for 12 NBA teams in 13 years, finally getting some permanence in his career. Will he stick in San Antonio? Who knows. But one thing won't change. He'll now always be known as an NBA champion.

Then, there's the Spurs' Glenn Robinson, a former No. 1 overall pick, finally getting his first ring. Yet, it's a bittersweet victory for him. He celebrates his greatest professional triumph a mere month after his mother died of cancer.

There's Robert Horry, becoming the 13th player in NBA history to win his sixth NBA title. There's Popovich becoming the fifth coach to lead three title squads. There's Ginobili joining the select company of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only players to win Olympic gold and hug the Larry in the same year.

There are so many stories, and so little room in this blog.

But you should know this about the rings the Spurs won tonight. When they first put those diamond encrusted, golden baubles on their hands, those rings will be slipped on over scarred knuckles and gnarled fingers. Those rings were earned. The final three games of this series may have been some of the grittiest, and sometimes the best, basketball The Finals had ever seen.

Save for the millions of Spurs fans in San Antonio and around the world, no one would have begrudged the Pistons another title. They had what it took to get within four points with one minute to go in the game. They had what it took to push this series to the brink.

But they didn't have Tim Duncan.

And that was the difference.

Thanks for following the blog throughout The Finals. It was our privilege to bring it to you. We'll be live from the 2005 NBA Draft in New York's Madison Square Garden on June 28. Read all about it on Tuesday.

Open 24-7
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 24 2005, 12 a.m. ET


Get your championship merchandise now at NBAStore.com.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Just after the final buzzer, the Spurs started their celebration by donning championship caps and tees. Log on to NBAStore.com now and get the same cap and tee worn by Duncan, Ginobili, Horry, Parker, Bowen and the other Spurs. Other great championship gear, like the Spurs championship basketball and DVD are available as well. Check it all out now at NBAStore.com.

As for the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Finals MVP trophy, no amount of money can buy them.

You need to earn those.

Tastes Good
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:54 p.m. ET

Confetti litters the floor of the SBC Center, 18,000 pairs of raw hands continue to clap and the Spurs have slipped on their 2005 NBA Champions hats.

After seven games, the San Antonio Spurs, thanks to an 81-74 win, are the 2005 NBA Champions.

Well earned. Well deserved.

We'll be back in a moment.

They Can Taste It
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:54 p.m. ET

The SBC Center crowd can taste their team's third title in seven years. They've broken out Queen's time-tested arena hit, "We Will Rock You."

They haven't used their seats for the last 15 minutes.

Too Easy
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:52 p.m. ET

Ginobil made it to the rack with ease on that last layup. How?

In Hand?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:49 p.m. ET

The Spurs have the ball and a six-point lead, 72-66, with 1:31 to go.

The Pistons need some tough D and a couple quick ... wait, a steal.

Forget this post.

Ginobili
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:38 p.m. ET

Manu's three was cold-blooded. And it was wide open. I'm trying not to repeat myself, so just read the post below as to why Ginobili could have baked a souffle on that play and still had time to get off the shot.

The Spurs are up seven with 2:46 to go. They're right on the average for the winning margin in Finals Game 7s -- 7.3.

Added Benefits
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:30 p.m. ET

As much as the Spurs needed Tim Duncan to assert himself on offense in order to put points on the board, another corrolary of him getting his groove on in the post is that it gives his teammates open looks.

While he only has one assist (Bruce Bowen's most recent three), he has been the catalyst for good ball movement whenever the Pistons have double-teamed him.

We Must Protect This Ball!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:25 p.m. ET

The Pistons only have six turnovers. They're sure to set the seven-game mark for fewest turnovers. The old record was 87. They have 66 in this series.

Oh my. Robert Horry again? For the Spurs, he's like that cool uncle who brings you lots of toys and gives you a wad of cash for your birthday.

For the Pistons, he's a recurring nightmare. Either that, or a bad meal. Whatever metaphor you want to use, he's bad news for the Pistons.

Manu of the Moment
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:21 p.m. ET

Wow! That's Manu's second monster dunk of the game. On this one, he started left, darted right, held the ball in both hands and then flushed with his right. Yikes.

And then, there's Ben Wallace, skyscraping for a board to keep a Pistons possession alive? Are you kidding me? The second half has been full of great individual plays and effort.

Jaleel White
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:19 p.m. ET

Talked to "Family Matters" star and NBA Blog Squad member Jaleel White about the game at halftime. He noted that if both Wallace's were on the floor in crunch time for the Pistons, that he would have to go with the Pistons to win.

We'll have more in a moment.

57 Varieties
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:11 p.m. ET

With 12 minutes (I have a sneaking suspicion that may not be enough) left in the season, we're back where we were when we started the season: all even. No one has an advantage. It's 57-57.

Like we mentioned earlier in the blog, this has turned into the best three-game series in NBA history.

Duncan went for 12 in the third. A monster performance.

Tim Duncan's Doin' It
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11:07 p.m. ET

With that sweet, sweet kiss off the glass, Duncan has 10 points in the third quarter.

It seems everytime down the court, the Spurs have found No. 21.

It Matters
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 11 p.m. ET

Millions around the globe are glued to their TVs, tellys, whatever you want to call them and can't peel themselves away. For example:

Fadi in Beirut, Lebanon wrote in the Global Fan Forum: "I've been up since 4:00 p.m. and my final exams are in a couple of hours, but for now Game 7 and the Spurs are on my mind. "

Good luck on the exams, Fadi. As for your Spurs right now, down six.

The Din Within
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 10:56 p.m. ET

It's so loud in the SBC Center, you can't hear the refs blow the whistles.

Just as I mentioned that Tim Duncan needs to be more aggressive and lo and behold, he grabs an offensive board, scores on the putback and gets and one.

Then, he cans his free throw, and I don't know if you saw it, but he clapped his hands in relief after it bounced around the rim and through the hoop.

The Spurs have scored seven straight points and are now down two, 48-46.

Sheed In Foul Trouble
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 10:53 p.m. ET

He had three fouls in the first half, and within minutes of the start of the third quarter, Rasheed Wallace picked up his fourth foul.

Still, the Pistons lead by five.

At The Half
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 10:23 p.m. ET

With a 39-38 lead, the Pistons go into the last 24 minutes of the season with a one-point lead.

The Pistons have had the largest lead at six points. The Spurs have led by as many as four.

Neither team is giving an inch. Not one inch.

Should be a good second half.

Back in a bit.

Open Underneath
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 10:17 p.m. ET

We've had a strange ebb and flow to this game. First, it seemed as if everything would be tough.

Now, the Pistons and Spurs are attack the paint and scoring easily. Parker, Ben Wallace, everyone's getting a good look at the hoop.

Detroit's frontcourt foul trouble has forced them to use Elden Campbell tonight. He already has made his presence felt. He has an assist.

McDyess
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 10:10 p.m. ET

He's 3 for 4 with six rebounds so far. As another NBA.com reporter said:

"He wants that ring real bad, doesn't he?"

No Doubling
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 10:05 p.m. ET

On Brent Barry's three-pointer, the Pistons' Lindsey Hunter left Tony Parker to double-team Tim Duncan, who passed to Parker, who found Barry wide open on the right wing.

Will the Pistons try that again? At their peril.

Nothing Easy
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:59 p.m. ET

Nothing's coming easy for either team. Not open looks, not rebounds, not even picks. Rasheed Wallace just got an inadvertent knee in the shin from Manu Ginobili.

And if the Pistons like dealing from a position of adversity, well, they've a chance to do so again tonight. The Pistons frontcourt -- Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess -- each have two fouls as does last year's Finals MVP, Chauncey Billups.

Larry Brown usually sits guys with two fouls. Not tonight, he can't do that.

Point, Counterpoint
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:50 p.m. ET

Everytime it seems a team will go on a little run after a nice play (like Rip Hamlton ducking under Robert Horry for two), the other team answers.

Right now, it doesn't look as if anyone will run away with this game.

And After One ...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:44 p.m. ET

After one quarter, it's Spurs 18, Pistons 16.

You didn't expect 39-38 after one in a Game 7 between these two teams, did you?

Big Shot Rob
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:39 p.m. ET

With the score at 18-14 Spurs, Robert Horry has scored the team's last six points.

You know, Horry has played in six Game 7s in his career and is 5-1, don't you?

Billups With Two
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:33 p.m. ET

Now, Chauncey Billups has two fouls.

Which team will feel the effects more right now with a key player out for each?

Mark it down. When Manu and Billups went out, the score was 12-12.

Meanwhile, during the timeout, the Spurs' Coyote rapelled down from the ceiling. As soon as he reached the court, he opened his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that said:

"Let Your Voices Ring"

Clever.

Manu With Two
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:30 p.m. ET

Manu just picked up his second foul, but the Spurs have tied it at 12-12.

The energy's back in the building.

As Good As It Gets?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:23 p.m. ET

Detroit has hit six of its first 10 shots. Can they keep up that pace? Meanwhile the Spurs are 3 for 9. That, and they've committed two turnovers already.

All the SBC Center's nervous energy is now more nervous and there's less energy.

"Go Spurs Go"
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9:15 p.m. ET

With two Pistons players left to introduce, the Spurs fans started the chant that's seen from chalked on to the side of taxis, in store front windows and painted on cheeks:

"Go Spurs Go!"

The chant drowned out the rest of the intros.

"We've been at this for seven games," they seemed to say. "We know who's who and what's what. No need for introductions."

Let's go.

Barry Nervous
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 9 p.m. ET

While we can only suppose what's going through the players' minds, we talked to one Hall of Famer and found him with butterflies in his stomach.

Rick Barry, who won a title in 1975 with the Golden State Warriors, said he wasn't nervous before the two Game 7s in his career (1975 West Finals against the Bulls, the Warriors won and in 1976, lost 4-3 in West Finals to Phoenix).

"I'd try to get to the arena as late as I could," Barry said, moments after discussing the finer points of shooting with NBA Superfan James Goldstein. "I knew if I got there hours early, I'd just waste my energy. These guys," he said pointing to the court, "getting here early to shoot... I just wanted to go to the arena, get taped, get dress and, let's play ball."

As for watching his son Brent, a Spurs forward, playing in a Game 7, Rick was as nervous as a dad could be in this situtation.

"It's worse when you're on the sidelines watching. You live and die with every play," Barry said. "You want everything to go perfectly for him. You want every shot to go down.

"You also want to go out there and play. It kills you to sit and watch."

Spoken like a guy who averaged 40.6 points per game in six 1967 Finals games.

What'd You Expect ...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 8:55 p.m. ET

With not everyone in their seats yet, the Spurs took the floor to a roar that made it sound like there were 28,000 in the SBC Center instead of the 18,878 it seats. That was 10 minutes ago. The noise has not stopped.

From Your Seat
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 7:36 p.m. ET

While no one here in the SBC Center will be in their seats for most of the night, moments after finishing his shootaround, Beno Udrih and a Spurs assistant coach sat with their legs out in front of them just at the end of the Spurs logo at the middle of the court. The assistant coach grabbed a ball and flung it toward the hoop.

Swish.

Beno was next.

Doink.

The assistant flung again.

Swish.

Beno tried it once more.

Swish.

No word as to whether it was a game of H-O-R-S-E or not.

Game 7
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 23 2005, 6:52 p.m. ET


With a Game 7 tonight, the spotlight is on The Finals.
(Chris Birck/NBAE)

We're back at the SBC Center for the sweetest words any NBA fan watching The Finals wants to hear: Game 7.

You know what it means. You know what's at stake. You know the gravity of one game -- 48 minutes (or more?) -- to decide the world's champion.

More than 4,000 days have passed since we've seen a Game 7 in The Finals.

Tonight, we'll find out if it has been worth the wait.

The Magnificent Seven
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 22 2005, 3:33 a.m. ET


The Pistons following instructions in Game 6.
(Chris Birck/NBAE)

On Thursday, NBA fans will get lucky: A lucky seven.

Why lucky? Because we're getting a Game 7, our first since 1994 when the Houston Rockets topped the New York Knicks 90-84 to win their first NBA title.

This is what fans wait for in every series. A winner-takes all single-elimination game. Everyone goes home after a Game 7, except that one team carries away the Larry, the rings and gets to wear snappy new champions caps. The other gets to wake up every day until the beginning of next season, look in the mirror and wonder:

What if?

What if we had done that differently? What if we had done this differently? What if we had made all our free throws? What if we had made that shot? What if that rebound hadn't slipped out of our hands? People will tell you that you played well, gave a valiant effort and have nothing to be ashamed of.

And none of it will matter. You'll go over every play in crystal clear HD in your head. You'll need to chew on this for a while, and it will be tough to swallow because you know that you were close enough to taste a title. You know that you were close to grasping greatness. You know, now, that not only do you see a different person in that mirror every morning, but history also will look at you differently.

Just ask Jerry West what it was like to lose four Finals Game 7. He'd tell you it ripped his insides to shreds. He played like a champ, he just didn't have the hardware to prove it.

Win that Game 7, though, and you will be remembered for greatness. Just ask Bill Russell, owner of 11 NBA championship rings. Russell played in five Finals Game 7s. His record? Perfection. That's why he needs a sixth finger on one of his hands to wear every ring.

Game 7. You can achieve greatness, or you won't be able to wash the bitter taste out of your mouth with a gallon of mouthwash.

And will us NBA fans be lucky enough to have a magnificent seventh game? If history holds, we just might.

The 15 previous Game 7s in NBA history have been decided by an average of 7.3 points.

To wit:

1951 -- Rochester 79, New York 75
1952 -- Minneapolis 82, New York 65
1954 -- Minneapolis 87, Syracuse 80
1955 -- Syracuse 92, Fort Wayne 91
1957 -- Boston 125, St. Louis 123**
1960 -- Boston 122, St. Louis 103
1962 -- Boston 110, Los Angeles 107*
1966 -- Boston 95, Los Angeles 93
1969 -- Boston 108, Los Angeles 106 in Los Angeles
1970 -- New York 113, Los Angeles 99
1974 -- Boston 102, Milwaukee 87 in Milwaukee
1978 -- Washington 105, Seattle 99 in Seattle
1984 -- Boston 111, Los Angeles 102
1988 -- L.A. Lakers 108, Detroit 105
1994 -- Houston 90, New York 84
* Denotes overtime period

We have had some classic Game 7s. Just look at the double OT thriller in 1957. The Hawks had a chance to send it to a third OT, but Bob Pettit's last-second shot rolled off the rim. The Pistons franchise has played in two Game 7s in their history, one in Ft. Wayne and one in Detroit. They've lost those games by a total of four points.

Speaking of the Pistons, they made history this evening. The last time they won in San Antonio, the Spurs played in the Alamodome and Carl Hererra started at forward, played 41 minutes and led the Spurs with 22 points. Lindsey Hunter started for the Pistons in that game on April 2, 1997. Michael Curry came off the bench.

Hunter and Curry were in the house on Tuesday. Hunter's still playing and playing well. His two buckets in the middle of the fourth helped keep the Spurs at arm's length and gave the Pistons' Finals MVP, Chauncey Billups, a little more rest. Meanwhile, Curry's helping keep labor peace.

Detroit also became the first team in Finals history to win a Game 6 on the road to force a Game 7. They followed up the Spurs' gritty, gutty Game 5 win, with a gritty, gutty win of their own. Uneasy lies the head who tries to take the Pistons' crown.

What can we expect from Game 7 on Thursday? After all, both teams have won two big games on the road. We could be looking at the three best closing games in Finals history.

Are we lucky? Definitely.

Will it be magnifcent? We can only hope.

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors ...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 22 2005, 12:03 a.m. ET


No, you can't get 'Dyess' mouth guard at the NBAStore.com.
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NBAE)

This is the free blog entry I've promised if I don't give you a movie title in the headline. Here's a message from the folks at NBAStore.com:

The jerseys, the game program, the ball, even the towel they're using on the bench.

Did you know you can get it all at NBAStore.com?

Get all the latest Finals gear now. Be a part of the action even if you are miles away from San Antonio. Shop now at NBAStore.com.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled Finals blog.

From Here to Eternity
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 11:53 p.m. ET

Every shot the Spurs take, this place is ready to explode.

Yet, like water on a fuse, the Pistons defense has dampened every Spurs charge.

But right now, even the Spurs' Coyote is on his knees praying for a different outcome.

And it's not going to happen, Detroit wins Game 6, 95-86. What a gutty performance by the Pistons. We get the first seven-game Finals series since 1994.

We'll be back in a bit.

The Razor's Edge
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 11:40 p.m. ET

Despite the first four games being decided by an average of 21 points, the last two games have revealed the truth about these two teams: They're as closely matched as you can get.

Closer
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 11:34 p.m. ET

Manu Ginobili's three-pointer set this place on its ear. With the score 84-82, it's as close as it's been all quarter.

Then, Sheed hits a three to give the Pistons a bit of breathing room.

The action's so fast I can't keep up.

Amazing.

The Big Shot
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 11:21 p.m. ET

The Big Shot is a movie starring one of the biggest movie stars of all time: Humphrey Bogart. Tonight's game has featured two of the biggest Finals stars in recent memory.

First, you have Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, who leads all scorers with 21 points. Then you have Big Shot Rob, who can miss a three-pointer by a foot, and then step up and sink one without blinking.

So far, there have been 23 lead changes in this game. That's 23, people.

Another classic?

The Guardsmen
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 11:04 p.m. ET

WIth Brent Barry's basket, the SBC Center had reason to explode, as the Spurs took a 66-64 lead.

But, the Pistons guards have been too good tonight to let something like that pass. Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton have found their groove tonight. Combined, they're 14-29 tonight, which is astounding for guards, especially in a series as tightly guarded as this one.

Right now, the Pistons are up four points, 71-67. (That's for you, mom.)

Second Chances
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 10:52 p.m. ET

Wow. The Spurs had four offensive rebounds in the first half. They had three through the first five minutes of the third quarter. If the Pistons expect to pull this one out, they're going to need to hit the boards and pronto.

That being said, what a three by Chauncey Billups. Right in Tim Duncan's face. That takes guts. Billups has plenty of those.

(And yes, Second Chances is the name of a movie.)

The Seven Samurai
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 10:31 p.m. ET

You know that coaches shorten their rotations in the postseason.

In Game 6, the magic number is seven. Gregg Popovich and Larry Brown shortened their benches in the first half and have given the starters long minutes. Each team has used eight players so far, but the Pistons' Carlos Arroyo and the Spurs' Beno Udrih only received a minute of burn.

One thing's for sure, the Pistons need more than 12 minutes of court time from Rasheed Wallace to win Game 6. He needs to be on that floor.

So, it looks like it'll will take the seven guys on each side to bring this game home. Seven Samurai recruited to guard the village. Seven Samurai to make sure the village elder (the coaches) feel safe.

Seven. We'll see if that's the number tonight.

The (Most Valuable) Player
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 10:19 p.m. ET


"So, um, Bobby, I hate to ask this, but did you vote for me?"
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Fans, you can now help make NBA history by voting in our Finals MVP poll.

Your vote helps in the process of determining who'll earn the award, so choose wisely.

Anger Management
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 10:04 p.m. ET

Detroit has picked up two technicals tonight already. Luckily for the Pistons, the Spurs have only converted one of them.

In a series this close, you don't want that one point to come back to haunt you.

The Three Amigos
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 9:52 p.m. ET

Looks like everyone is dialing long distance tonight, the Pistons -- gasp! -- more so than the Spurs.

Detroit is 4 for 7 from three-point range, while the Spurs are 3 for 7.

I wonder if the Pistons hope the long-range marksmanship will open up the paint?

That's Entertainment!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 9:22 p.m. ET


Sean Marks' son gets his fro on.
(Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

A little photo blogging for you.

Sean Marks, who is not on the Spurs' playoff roster, held his son during early shootaround. The young Marks' shirt reads: Fear This Fro.

Very cute.

Trading Places
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 9:22 p.m. ET

With every trip down the floor, it seems like the lead changes.

(And with every post, I'll try to use a movie reference in the headline. If I don't, you get a free blog post.)

What hasn't changed, though, for the second straight game, is that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich bringing in Brent Barry and Robert Horry, who received a standing ovation at the mention of his name, early. As a matter of fact, we just saw Tony Parker head to the locker room. We'll see if we can find out why.

My Precious!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 9:17 p.m. ET

The Spurs just ran a short film akin to Lord of the Rings stating that the journey for the ring ends tonight.

We'll see.

Let's get it started.

One Thing or 1 Thing?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 9 p.m. ET

Walked around the floor of the SBC Center for a bit to soak up the atmosphere. Spurs assistant Don Newman was feeding Nazr Mohammed passes. Manu Ginobili drained jumpers. And then Robert Horry walked out to thunderous cheers. He walked over to NBPA president Billy Hunter and NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein and started to chat.

One thing I noticed when the players shot around before the game was the music level. I heard Amerie's "1 Thing" in the background, but it played at level akin to someone playing their radio at work.

Of course, that changed when the teams took the court and the music was turned up and it's blasting now.

Speaking of blasting, the Spurs basketball operations crew ran a nice montage on the board just before the Spurs took to the floor. To the tune of Finger Eleven's "One Thing" (yep, there's another song with the same title), action shots of the Spurs flashed across the video board. Why is this unusual? Well, the Spurs included every player, including their guys not on the playoff roster in the montage. A nice gesture. It also says that every guy on the squad is important.

With that, if the Spurs win tonight, you know they'll hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy in triumph. Someone -- whomever is Finals MVP -- will hoist a MVP trophy with a new design. As soon as we have a picture, we'll get one up for you to see.

What Will We Get?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 21 2005, 7 p.m. ET


Michael Curry, Commissioner Stern and Billy Hunter have reason to smile.
(Chris Covatta/NBAE/Getty Images)

We're back in San Antonio at the SBC Center for Game 6 and we're ready for whatever may come tonight, be it a Spurs title or a Pistons win. If Detroit manages to shake off memories of a Game 5 they had in hand and the nightmares of Robert Horry's three-pointer cascading through the sky and out the bottom of the net, we could be looking at the first Game 7 in a Finals since 1994.

We have had a few interesting moments since we've arrived at the arena in time for the NBA and the NBPA to announce that there would be no lockout.

To which we have a one-word response: Yee-haw! (And then, like a scene from the movie "Red River," we waved our cowboy hats in the air. We are in Texas after all.)

Why was it interesting you ask? Well, as we were watching Commissioner David Stern and NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter announce and take questions about the new six-year labor deal, singer Frankie J warmed up on the court for tonight's performance of his hit "Obsession (No Es Amor)". So, sometimes we'd get this.

"This new agreement creates a strong partnership with our players..."

"Amor, no es amor (if this aint love)/Then what am I feeling (what am I doing wrong)"

"... the NBA and its players will be able to focus on the enormous opportunities we have together ..."

"Amor, no es amor (if this aint love)/Is this an illusion that I have in my heart?"

No, we have no illusions. After all, we amor this game.

Then again, we're here for a game; and we ask: Whither the Pistons? Tonight's the night we find out what kind of heart the Bad Boys, Part II have. They haven't won here since April of 1997 which is when the internet was about to boom and Tim Duncan was fighting off senioritis down in Winston-Salem, N.C. To put that in perspective, any child born on that day would more than likely be in the third grade right now.

Also, can the Spurs close out the Pistons? WIth the exception of Robert Horry, the lot of them looked shaky in Game 5's fourth quarter and overtime. The SBC crowd should give their guys in black and silver a lift.

If talking to the general populace today in downtown San Antonio is any indication, this town is ready for a celebration. Two salespersons at a local department store could talk about nothing else beside the game tonight. The counterperson at a McDonald's had Duncan's, Tony Parker's and Many Ginobili's numbers written on her cheek. Many joked (we think) about free tickets to the game tonight.

Will they be watching tonight?

"Of courrrrrrrse," said our McDonald's gal. "We can't wait."

Neither can we.

Back in a bit.

Sangfroid
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 20 2005, 3:15 a.m. ET


For Robert Horry, it was just another night at the office.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Sangfroid? What's that mean?

What it means is Robert Horry is a bad man. Bad for opponents in the playoffs and Finals, anyway. But if you want to get techincal, we'll let Pablo from Argentina, who chimed in during NBA.com's Global Fan Forum, explain it:

"Mr 'Big Shot' Horry, 21 points. What else can I say? He's the most cold-blooded being I have seen ever."

Cold-blooded or ... sangfroid. Old School rappers call it chillin'. The Fonz called it "cool." The dictionary says: "Composure in the face of difficulty or danger."

Whatever you call it, Big Shot Rob -- not Bob, thankyouverymuch -- has more of it than most of us have ever had, and he was definitely the coolest cat on the court in Game 5. And with the exception of those players in the playoff pantheon: MJ, Magic, Bird, Kareem, Russell and Miller, there may be no player in postseason history whose sang has more froid than Horry.

From the moment he hit a three to close the third quarter to the "Where-the-heck-did-that-come-from?" lefty slam in OT to the final three-pointer he hit in overtime, Horry was 7 for 8 from the field, including 5 for 6 from long range. Whenever he touched the ball late, the air left The Palace. As soon as he lined up his final dagger -- a wide-open look, mind you -- The Palace faithful emitted a sound I had never heard before at a sporting event. It was a combination scream-groan-exclamation. Almost a, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh-ooooooooooooooh-nooooooooooooo!"

And then the silence. Oh, we could hear grumbling and the disbelief, but more than that we could feel the disappointment; the disappointment of a blown defensive assignment; the disappointment of having a game in your grasp only to see it bounce into Horry's capable mitts and then see it swish through the bottom of the net; the disappointment of being down one with 5.9 seconds to go after being up four with 1:43 left in overtime; and most disappointing was the realization that their beloved Pistons, who had poleaxed the Spurs in Games 3 and 4, need to go to San Antonio and win two consecutive games.

You could even say we felt a chill in the air.

Considering that the Spurs were a league-best 38-3 at home this season and haven't lost consecutive home games since April of 2003, Pistons fans have a good reason for their deep sense of disappointment.

But the Pistons are a team that thrives on adversity. They like to say they're at their best when their backs against the wall. This time they will need to be their best because their backs couldn't be more firmly pressed to the brick.

On Tuesday, there is no wiggle room.

Whew!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 20 2005, 12:22 a.m. ET

Shades of John Paxson in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals, Robert Horry hits a wide-open three to help the Spurs win 96-95 in Game 5 of the 2005 Finals.

If the Spurs win the title, and they have two chances at home, Robert Horry will never need to pick up a check again in San Antonio.

Back with more in a bit.

No. 5 in Game 5?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 20 2005, 12:14 a.m. ET

If the Spurs win this, do they retire Robert Horry's number?

Question...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 20 2005, 12:12 a.m. ET

For the Spurs, can you let Tim Duncan, who's 4 of 11 from the free throw line, touch the ball in this situation?

For the Pistons, do you, one, foul Duncan if he gets it?

One thing you don't do is leave anyone outside of the three-point line.

Oh Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 20 2005, 12:08 a.m. ET

That's the sound The Palace makes when Robert Horry has the ball behind the three-point line.

Double Your Pleasure
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 20 2005, 12:04 a.m. ET

With Tayshaun Prince's bucket to give the Pistons a 91-89 lead, every player on the floor as of 2:52 (to go?) in overtime is in double figures.

Burning Down the House
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:52 p.m. ET

I guess that final 59 seconds wasn't long enough to settle Game 5. We asked for more, we got it. I'm just glad I have a good ticker.

This is the first overtime game in The Finals since Game 2 last year when the Lakers topped the Pistons 99-91 in OT.

Here we go... OT

Loud, LouDER, LOUDEST
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:52 p.m. ET

OK, I lied. We're back. Never, ever have I heard The Palace as loud as when Tim Duncan shot those two free throws. And, if possible, when he missed the first, it got LOUDER.

Ridiculous
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:47 p.m. ET

Insane, absolutely insane. Sheed hits a crazy turnaround. Horry follows up with a putback. Billups hits a turnaround. Horry hits a THREE. Pistons fans are beside themselves.

And then after a Hamilton miss, Duncan's fouled and amid the din caused by hands, larynxes and thunder sticks, misses two free throws.

Spurs lead 88-87 with 59 seconds (to go?) in the fourth. We may not blog again until the end of the game.

Sidekicks
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:39 p.m. ET

While they have been playing lights out, Duncan and Billups each have had guys to help them.

For the Spurs, it's been Robert Horry, who just hit a three to tie the game at 79-79. I don't know how many Pistons fans threw their hands up in disgust at The Palace, but for a second it looked as if everyone was being held up.

Then, for the Pistons, there's Tayshaun Prince grabbing every loose ball and offensive rebound to be had.

Yes, people, this is what we've been waiting for: A classic. More please.

Duncan's Fight
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:34 p.m. ET

Did you see Duncan work for that rebound and putback? Did you see when he pumped his fist after getting the bucket and then the foul? (Also, did you see him miss his fourth free throw tonight?)

He knows what's at stake tonight.

Meanwhile, the MVP chant has started for Chauncey Billups, who just hit two freebies to put the Pistons up three.

MVPs
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:29 p.m. ET

As fans know, this Finals is a meeting between the last two Finals champs. That also means the last two Finals MVPs, San Antonio's Tim Duncan in 2003 and Detroit's Chauncey Billups in 2004, are here.

Tonight, they're playing like MVPs. Duncan has 23 points and 13 boards with 6:15 left in the fourth, while Billups has 22 points on 8 for 16 shooting and four assists.

What more could NBA fans want?

Completely Random Celebrity Sightings
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:23 p.m. ET


Kid Rock moves the crowd.
(Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

We've wandered around The Palace and caught sight of some celebrities. As you can see above, Kid Rock is here.

We saw Eva Longoria here, albeit with her cap pulled down tight so no one will recognize her. Filmmaker Michael Moore got stuck in traffic, but made it. And then, in the concourse, we saw the "comic" Gallagher. He's more of a watermelon smasher, though. And just as we passed him, someone said: "Did he just throw something on me?"

Old habits are hard to break.

Hustle
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:20 p.m. ET

What hustle by Antonio McDyess! The work whistle is blowing and everyone is standing.

Big Shot Rob, Part II
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:16 p.m. ET

There's that man again, hitting another three to open the fourth.

What did I say about the stars taking this one home? Uh...

Big Shot Rob
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:12 p.m. ET

For 35 minutes of the game, Robert Horry can seemingly have no effect whatsoever on the ebb and flow of the game. And then, he finds himself alone, on the wing, behind the arc, with the clock ticking down and he will calmly stroke a three. Like Santa Clause to Christmas and the Easter Bunny is to, well, Easter, clutch situations are Robert Horry time. His three to give the Spurs a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter was huge.

The Roof's Off
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:08 p.m. ET

Chauncey Billups' bucket and one to tie the game at 61-61 was like an electric jolt delivered to all 22,000 seats in The Palace. No Piston fan here was sitting after that play.

Intensity
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 11:04 p.m. ET


Rip has had his eyes on Bowen all night.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Watch if you will the battle between Rip Hamilton and Bruce Bowen. It's an incredible contest for position on the court and for psychological advatange.

Dance with Who Brought Ya
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:51 p.m. ET

Interesting early stat of the third quarter: Bench points.

The Spurs have five points off their bench, the Pistons four. It's clear the stars will carry the load tonight.

Trading Baskets
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:48 p.m. ET

Nice exchange between the two teams to open the half.

Speaking of the half, I noticed the Extreme Team halftime entertainment squad was feriociously dunking on the Spurs' bucket. Not that it's hindered the Spurs at the start of the half. They've scored eight points and The Palace crowd has been quiet ... with the exception of that Rasheed and Ben Wallace tag-team block that just happened.

Two Good?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:23 p.m. ET

Well, folks? Is this the one we've been waiting for? We're 2-2 in the series and 42-42 after two quarters here at The Palace.

After the first four games were decided by an average of 21 points, we're finally looking at a game that's as even as the series.

Back in a moment.

Crazy Stats
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:19 p.m. ET

The Pistons and Spurs are each 16 for 37 from the field and 6 for 8 from the free throw line at that last 20-second time out.

The only difference between the two teams is that the Spurs have one more three-pointer than the Pistons.

Barry! Barry!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:15 p.m. ET

It's always interesting to see which celeb in the crowd will get the biggest reaction from the fans.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo received a warm welcome, as did Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns. Kid Rock received big cheers. And it looked like he had-- gasp! -- a soft drink?

Then, they showed Barry Sanders on the board. And the crowd went bonkers. They started chanting his name and the crowd seemed to carry that buzz into the next play.

Mmm... Coffee
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:06 p.m. ET

Just peeked into the Global Fan Forum and noticed this, from Ali in Turkey: "I think the Spurs'll be champion. I drank all the coffee I have. It is now 0502 in Turkey."

If I know anything about how strong Turkish coffee is, Ali will be able to stay up until Game 6 on Tuesday night.

Ali, thanks for caffeinating and waking up to watch the game.

Din is Done (For Now...)
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 10:01 p.m. ET

With the Spurs nursing a nine-point lead, The Palace crowd has quieted a bit. Scratch that. Make that The Palace crowd has shushed a lot.

Happy Father's Day
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:55 p.m. ET

Earlier in the series, we blogged about the celebrity look alike feature they run on the video board during timeouts.

Tonight, in honor of Father's Day, they ran photos of famous TV dads: Ward Cleaver, Mike Brady and Cliff Huxtable. They found a couple guys in the stands who were close to Ward and Cliff, but the most impressive thing was that they found a guy who looked like Mike Brady, complete with perm and everything.

That's quality crowd scoping right there.

Duncan Does It
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:49 p.m. ET

Remember what I said earlier in the blog about Duncan not looking sharp in the warmups? Uh, forget that, please. He already has nine points and six boards in 10 minutes.

Serves me right for noticing.

Close
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:46 p.m. ET

After one quarter, we have a Pistons two-point lead despite the Spurs shooting .400 from the field. Maybe the seven offensive boards have something to do with the Spurs' resilience.

That, and Popovich has tried a multitude of combinations in the first quarter. It seems to be doing the trick so far.

Those Magic Moments
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:44 p.m. ET

Again tonight, we're inviting fans from around the world to read the blog and visit the Global Fan Forum. Here's a question you can respond to in the Forum:

Matthew Modine, a huge NBA fan who is here in The Palace tonight, and star of "Full Metal Jacket" and "Any Given Sunday," said his favorite playoff moment was the Knicks' Larry Johnson's four-point play against the Pacers in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals.

What's your favorite Finals or playoffs moment of all time?

Go, and post your thoughts in the Global Fan Forum.

Crowded
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:23 p.m. ET

One of the many reasons San Antonio needs to play well tonight is that they need to regain their confidence after being drubbed in Games 3 and 4.

But another reason, and it could be bigger than the Spurs confidence is that San Antonio desperately needs to take The Palace crowd out of the game. They've been screaming since the opening tip and have not, saved for a couple of Duncan buckets, stopped. Every loose ball, every board, every bucket, they're on their feet. The Pistons themselves have said they feed off the crowd, and with an early 13-6 lead, they're feasting.

The Spurs must do something pronto.

Gregg Popovich decided to do something: Put Robert Horry and Brent Barry in early in the first. WIll it work? We'll see.

Game 5!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:16 p.m. ET

Who's going to be a hero tonight?

Kid Rock
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 9:10 p.m. ET

No matter what you think of him, Kid Rock gave an excellent rendition of "America the Beautiful." Good choice of material too, considering that "The Star Spangled Banner" would be out of Kid's range.

Wall of Sound
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 8:58 p.m. ET

It begins with the raspberries.

For about six minutes The Palace of Auburn Hills becomes a din. First, the opponent, in this case the San Antonio Spurs, takes the floor to a throaty chorus of boos.

Then N.E.R.D. arrives as the intro the group's "Rock Star" plays on a loop. Then, on the video screen above, the Pistons hit the hallway outside of the locker room and start to jump around. The Palace sound man cranks up Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" never fails to get the Palace crowd a little more hyped and it never fails to remind me of "Miami Vice."

Then they cut to the Pistons' chanting in the hallway. As the Pistons make their way to the court, a huge bass drum pounds as a countdown is conducted on the video board. Finall, when the countdown reaches zero, the work whistle blows and the now world famous Mason bellows out, "Welcome! Your! Woooooooooooorrrrrrrld Champion! Dee-troit! Pistons!"

"Whhhhhhhoooooooooooooooooooooo!" blows the whistle again.

And Ben Wallace, with 'fro flowin', leads the Pistons to the Palace floor.

Much Ado About Manu
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 8:15 p.m. ET

While Tim Duncan is the unquestioned leader of the Spurs, the unquestioned target of Pistons' fans focus has been Manu Ginobili.

Ginobili, who torched the Pistons in Games 1 and 2, received the loudest boos during Game 3 intros here at the Palace. Pistons fans also showered him with boos at the Game 4 introductions (other Spurs received a drizzle).

And then, walking around the arena tonight, two signs about Manu caught my eye.

First, a Palace employee spray painted his hair blue, as they are wont to do, and had "Don't Cry 4 Me Argentina" stenciled in the back. What was impressive was the word "Argentina" fit. Yet, he had a normal sized cranium.

Then, just across the way, a man held a sign, possibly in honor of the day, that said "Like Father, Like Son."

On one side of the sign was a picture of actor Bronson Pinchot, who played the character Balki Bartokomous in the '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers."

On the sign's other side, was Manu.

The City of Slumped Shoulders
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 7:20 p.m. ET

I don't know what this means, if it means anything at all, but watching Tim Duncan warmup just now could provide something revealing about tonight's Game 5.

Working with Spurs assistant coach Don Newman, Duncan worked through his spots on the floor, moving from block to block, wing to wing and so forth. Nothing fell for him. Everything was short: stepbacks, jumpers, bank shots. After missing five shots in a row, he put his hands on his hips as if to say: "What's going on here?" After missing his next shot, his bread-and-butter bank shot, his shoulders slumped.

Maybe it's from the weight that he's carrying on them.

Game 5: Where Legends Are Born
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 19 2005, 6:43 p.m. ET


Jordan, Magic, Worthy, Bird ... Game 5 heroes all.
(Hayt/Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Just how important is winning Game 5 of The Finals?

Very!

Of the 23 Finals series that have been 2-2, the team that takes Game 5 has gone on to win the series 17 times. Impressive and important. In 2003, San Antonio won Game 5 in New Jersey and clinched the title in San Antonio in Game 6. The last team to win a Game 5 with the series tied 2-2 and not come away with the LO'B Trophy were the Knicks in 1994.

So, yes, if you win Game 5, you're in the driver's seat. And often, those who shine in Game 5, the performances are legendary.

And as I say that, Kid Rock warms up for his performance of "America the Beautiful" wearing a t-shirt ... with sleeves! His trademark black fedora is perched on a microphone stand behind him.

Be there at 9 p.m. when the Kid performs.

History Finals
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 17 2005, 4:43 a.m. ET


After the Game 4 loss, Popovich needed his space.
(Chris Ivey/NBAE/Getty Images)

OK, class. Take out your No. 2 pencils, pop Finals quiz.

What Finals record did the Pistons set tonight?
A) 4 -- Fewest turnovers in a Finals game
B) 31 --- Largest margin of victory in a Finals Game 4
C) 23 -- Most assists in a game
D) All of the above
E) None of the above

What's your answer? If you chose A) 4 -- Fewest turnovers in a Finals game, you were correct. For those of you who picked B, you were close, but that honor belongs to the Blazers, who shellacked Dr. J's 76ers by 32 in Game 4 of the 1977 Finals.

All of which leads us to another "unofficial" record for this series: margin of victory. Of the 22 Finals series (including this one) that have been tied at 2-2, the 2005 Finals has the largest average margin of victory at 21.0 points per game. In Finals history, only six Finals series tied at 2-2 (1960, 1974, 1977, 1984, 1988, 1992) have had a double-digit margin of victory through four games.

Of those six, three series (1960, 1974, 1988) reached a Game 7 and this Finals series, following the 1960 and 1988 series, is only the third in history where the margin of victory in each game has been in double digits.

All of which means ... what?

For the coaches, it means joy for one, pain for other. For example, check out how loose Larry Brown was after the game.

Q. Coach, after all of those years in basketball, all your years, how can you explain such a drastic shift in two teams within just two or three days?
Brown
: Good coaching.

There was much laughter after that answer. No one was giggling during Popovich's press conference, though.

Q. Is the frustration level high or could it get even higher than what you're feeling right now?
Popovich
: "I don't feel frustrated at all. There would be some other words that would be a lot more accurate, but there's no time for frustration."

You can only imagine which words. But as we said earlier, it's a three-game series now. First team to win two games are the champs. Winning two hasn't been a problem for either team. Keeping the opponent close has.

Three-Game Series
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 12:07 p.m. ET

It's a three-game series now, people with San Antonio holding the home-court advantage.

More from The Finals Blog later.

Turn of the Century
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:54 p.m. ET

Trivia question: Which player scored the bucket to give the Pistons 100, the first time a team hung a C-note on the Spurs in The Finals?

Darko Milicic. The Palace fans asked and they received.

Night of the Hunter
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:46 p.m. ET

No, not the great, creepy movie starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish, but Lindsey Hunter. The veteran guard set the place on its ear with a dunk off a fast break. Lindsey can dunk?

Whatever it was Lindsey had for dinner, I want some. Hunter scored 17, dished five assists and was 7 for 9 from the field. A good night indeed.

Chants Encounter?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:42 p.m. ET

The Palace fanatics are clamoring for Darko Milicic. And there's 3:51 left in the fourth quarter. They may get him in a bit. The Pistons are up by 23, no, 24 after that Ben Wallace free throw.

And after 13 Finals games of not allowing an opponent to score 90 or more points, the Spurs have given up 90-plus in back-to-back games ... to the Pistons.

Interesting and weird at the same time.

YMCA
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:36 p.m. ET

The global television broadcast showed the international play-by-play guys and gals boogie-ing to the timeless classic (yes, I said timeless) "YMCA" during that last long time out. NBA Blog Squad member George Eddy seemed to especially enjoy the tune. Get on with your bad self, George.

A Little Bit Louder Now
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:26 p.m. ET

Otis Day and the Knights ("Otis, my man!") are imploring The Palace crowd to "Get a little bit louder now" from the song "Shout." I don't see how they can with the factory whistle blowing, the thunder sticks and the PA system blaring. We have a good din going on. And even Stevie Wonder, who's here again tonight, is shouting.

Now, it's Kid Rock's turn with "Bawitdaba." Oh, they love their musical heroes here in Detroit, which casting aside New York and L.A., probably has one of the richest musical histories of any city. From Motown to MC5 to Bob Seger to Em and Kid, that's quite a popular list. You can put it up against anyone.

Dug Too Deep
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:18 p.m. ET

The largest third-quarter deficit ever overcome to win a game was 21 when the Celtics trailed the Nets 74-53 on May 25, 2002. The Cs went on to win 94-90.

Considering that the Spurs deficit was 17, 74-57 and that the third quarter was the Spurs highest scoring with 21, it may not be in the cards tonight.

Standing O
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:13 p.m. ET

The raucous Palace crowd just gave Lindsey Hunter a standing ovation when he was taken out of the game. And why not? He's 6 for 7 from the field tonight.

Shoot, Lindsey, Shoot!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11:06 p.m. ET

The Palace fans are really into it. Lindsey Hunger had the ball on the right wing and he had four or five Pistons fans screaming in his ear to pull up from three in Parker's grille.

That, and they just showed a picture of Tim Duncan on TV. He had that far away look about him.

Too Much TD?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 11 p.m. ET

For the Global Fan Forum folks: Is Tim Duncan trying to do too much? I know the Spurs need him to be great to be successful, but it seems as if he's going against three guys every time he touches the ball. What do you think?

Detroit on the Run
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:56 p.m. ET

For a team whose success is often predicated on defense, the Pistons have shown they can run. They have 18 fastbreak points, often meeting little resistance in the paint when they reach it on the run. Haven't seen anything like it from them in The Finals up until now.

And at the last timeout, the Pistons dance team, Automotion danced to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Did someone flip the calendar back to 2000?

Popped Off, Part II
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:49 p.m. ET

In an interview with ABC just before the second half, Popovich said: "This is the worst performance he's ever seen from a Playoff team." Yikes.

House Band of Brothers
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:44 p.m. ET

The Pistons have a house band. They're pretty good. Two of them are wearing Darko Milicic jerseys: the keyboardist and the sax player.

Make of that what you will. I got nothing.

For Safe Keeping
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:36 p.m. ET

Want to know why the Pistons have a 51-36 lead at halftime?

With 16 assists and one turnover, they're taking care of the ball. You won't lose when you have that kind of assists to turnover ratio.

Fear the Fro?
Posted by Martin Sumners (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:16 p.m. ET


Two Ben Wallace fans.
(Martin Sumners/NBAE Images)

Two cherubic fans, Charlie and Mindy from nearby Toledo, Michigan, don the fro. However, I don't think they have the same intimidating effect as Big Ben.

Starting Five
Posted by Martin Sumners (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:08 p.m. ET


The Defenders.
(Martin Sumners/NBAE Images)

As one would expect, there is plenty of Pistons paraphernalia at the Palace. Say that fast five times. The menacing faces of the Pistons' starting five on a black background can be intimidating. I think that's the point.

Desperate House Video
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10:06 p.m. ET

On the video board during time outs, the Pistons video crew show a celebrity, split the screen and then try to find someone in the crowd who likes like the celeb.

Tonight, they put Eva Longoria's picture on the board. There were plenty of boos. They found a couple fans who looked like Eva ... then, they found Eva. She was laughing. Good sport.

En Garde!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 10 p.m. ET

I know most people, when watching a basketball game, follow the ball. That's instinct. But take a moment if you will, to watch the fencing going on between guards Richard Hamilton and Bruce Bowen, on both ends of the floor. They are really going at it.

Bowen has no points and Hamiton has two at 5:57 in the second quarter.

More Celebs
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:54 p.m. ET

The Bus, Jerome Bettis, is parked inside The Palace. So is Cavs guard LeBron James. And once again, Oscar-winner (yes Oscar-winner) Eminem is in the house, taunting the Spurs to call timeouts. Em has a red bandana. He looks like an extra from a kung fu movie.

Turnovers Not So Tasty
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:49 p.m. ET

Spurs fans, yikes! A 10-point Pistons lead already? Popovich is quick on the timeout trigger. The crowd's into it, the Spurs not so much. That's eight turnovers through 13 minutes of play. That's eight extra possessions for the Pistons. As we saw in Game 3, where the Spurs had 18 turnovers to Detroit's 11, you can't win like that.

By the way, Antonio McDyess. A difference maker? Who knew?

The Security Council
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:43 p.m. ET

Here's one entry for the folks from NBA.com's Global Fan Forum who are visiting tonight. We should start calling the Spurs' "The Security Council" after the United Nations body of the same name, which also has five members. At the end of the first quarter, they had Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Beno Udrih (Slovenia), Manu Ginobili (Argentina) and Robert Horry and Nazr Mohammed from the U.S.

That's quite the international crew right there.

Sixth Man?
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:39 p.m. ET

During that last timeout, they introduced the legends who are in the house. And it would have made an incredible starting five.

At point guard, Magic Johnson.

At shooting guard, Clyde Drexler.

At small forward, Dominique ('Nique, ''Nique, 'Nique) Wilkins.

At power forward, Bill Russell. Yeah, I know he played center, but this team has a center.

And at center, Bob "The Dobber" Lanier.

Yep, that's a good five right there.

Oh, Shoot!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:32 p.m. ET

Throw your thunder stix in the air and wave them around like you just don't ...

Anyway, The Palace is one of the few arenas where, when a player shoots a free throw, they see seats instead of corridor to the locker room. For Duncan's last free throw, the Thunder Stix were in full effect, though, I don't think that has much of an effect on Duncan, who's a barely above average free throw shooter anyway.

Popped Off
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:26 p.m. ET

Popovich was anything but ramrod straight on that technical foul. He practically ran out to the paint.

Being Tim Duncan
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:20 p.m. ET

Want to know what goes on in a two-time Finals MVP's head after a loss in The Finals? Let's take a look with our tour guide, Gregg Popovich.

Popovich: "I wish there was a machine that you could look into his head, and it would print out what's going through there. He just beats himself up. He blames himself. He gets disappointed in himself, and as the next game comes, his cup fills again and he comes with a renewed focus. I said nothing to him well, I did. I sat next to him and said, 'Do I need to say anything or do you already know what I'm going to say?'"

And he, (Duncan nodding). I said, 'It's been great talking to you.' And I went the other way. And that was our meeting."

Pick Me!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:17 p.m. ET

Will flattery get you everywhere? Walking around The Palace, we witnessed the most craven attempt to get on camera in sometime.

A gentleman held a sign: "Cameramen are underpaid! Go Pistons!"

We'll see if that makes air.

Standing for the Anthem
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 9:15 p.m. ET

I never noticed this before, because during the national anthem, which was handled ably tonight by "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, they often show players from the neck up. But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was an officer in the U.S. Air Force, stands ramrod straight. Doesn't move a muscle, like an officer would.

On A (Chicken) Wing and a Prayer
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 8:50 p.m. ET

So, what do NBA champions eat before a big game. Well, if you're Rasheed Wallace, a plate of hot wings. If you're Darko Milicic, chicken nuggets. Careful, gents. You don't want barbecue sauce on the home whites.

Magic Show
Posted by Brad Friedman (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 8:35 p.m. ET

NBA.com met with legendary Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson shortly before appearing on "Live at the Finals with Ahmad Rashad", filmed live on the baseline as the Spurs were in their layup lines.

You could say Magic knows a thing or two about The Finals; as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers he won five of them. Here's what he had to say about the big show:

Q: What do you think of the series thus far?

Johnson: "The series has been great. I think you've got two teams that enjoy and thrive on playing good defense. When they play good defense they usually get out on the break and run. They really utilize the fast break to their advantage. And then they also take advantage of turnovers. The team that has turned over the ball most has lost and the team that has taken advantage of those turnovers has won."

Q: How do you think Game 4 will unfold?

Johnson: "Tonight, you have to look at who gets to play their game first, who is the aggressor, who is the team that makes the other team turn the ball over. That's the team that usually wins."

Q: What's it like in the locker room after winning an NBA Championship?

Johnson: "Oh man, that's the greatest feeling in the world. You never want that feeling to stop because you know how great that is."

Q: Do you still remember the first time you won a title?

Johnson: "Oh yeah, you never forget that against Philadelphia. It was the greatest moment of my life, to win that game (series-clinching Game 6), especially without Kareem, was truly an amazing feat for us. To beat Philadelphia, Dr. J -- my hero -- was a great situation. We didn't know how to celebrate, with the champagneÖ

"That was my first NBA title. It was great. I really had a lot of fun."

Early Celeb Sightings
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 8:10 p.m. ET


The Drummer Boys in their pre-game warmups.
(Martin Sumners/NBAE Images)

Man, these Detroit Drummer Boys are good. They're jamming along the baseline where the Pistons sit, and they already have people in the crowd screaming "Yeahhhhhhhh" and "Woooo!"

As for star power, we've seen a few celebrities roaming around The Palace tonight. NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett, and four of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players: Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Clyde Drexler and David Robinson. We'll have a short Q&A with Magic in just a bit, so hang on for that.

It's A Small World After All
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 7:55 p.m. ET

Throughout Game 4, The Finals Blog will be making brief appearances in NBA.com's Global Fan Forum, where NBA fans from around the world can post their comments on tonight's game.

So, feel free to join in and comment about the blog. We'll try to post some of the best here in the blog during the game.

Mmmm... Midwest Food
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 7:50 p.m. ET

We're back from our little sojourn around The Palace to get a feel for what's going on here. When we were here before Tuesday's Game 3, one could sense the hesitancy of the Palace faithful. They still believed in their team, but being in a 2-0 hole didn't help the mood much.

But there's a different feel tonight, especially after the 15-point shellacking the Pistons provided Tuesday. It seems there's a greater sense of optimism and energy among the Pistons fans.

Speaking of energy, an 18-man drummer corps -- all wearing Ben Wallace No. 3 jerseys -- provided plenty of it as it roamed the councourse. (Decibel reading: More than likely through the roof.) With snares, bass and every other drum a marching band has, the Detroit Drummer Boys pounded their way around the Palace before parking themselves in the food court and giving the crowd a little boost. This was their third appearance at the Palace during the Pistons playoff run.

Also, much to the author's delight, he was able to snag a bratwurst (It's pronounced "braht-wurst, as in "Ah, that was good wurst.") for dinner. For this native Midwesterner who now lives on the East Coast, it was nice treat. Now, all we need is some frozen custard and we're set.

And finally, a good string of music here at the Palace: "Rapper's Delight," by the Sugar Hill Gang, "Get Down On It," by Kool and the Gang and then "Hollaback Girl," by Gwen Stefani.

Gearing Up for Game 4
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 16 2005, 6:28 p.m. ET


The 'Fro has his eyes on the blog.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

We're back at The Palace of Auburn Hills for Game 4 of The Finals. Three hours before game time and there is a hum of activity, and that hum isn't just coming from the arc lights that ring the stadium and illuminate the 94x50 feet of hardwood.

The Pistons basketball operations crew tested the flamethrowers used during introductions. (They worked. The plume of smoke rises to the rafters on both ends of the floor and the retired number and division championship banners billow from the gust.)

In the center of the floor, a pair of acrobats climb around on a set of risers. I have no idea what they're doing, but it looks as if the gentleman want to make sure the risers are stable. Don't want to fall three feet onto the court (or nine if you're the woman who stood on his shoulders. Yikes!)

And finally, a lot of Detroit and San Antonio newscasters are doing their reports from the Palace floor.

But what about the .com crew? They're out and about collecting the sound bites and sights of The Finals here at the Palace. We'll have some reports for you in a bit.

The Palace Guards
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 15 2005, 3:20 a.m. ET


Woohoo! A win!
(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

Before Game 1, we noted that the Pistons will go as far as their guards can take them. In Games 1 and 2, it wasn't very far.

But in Game 3, Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups finally had a combined effort that the Pistons and their fans expected from them. Detroit's backcourt combined for 44 points, 26 in the second half, to power the Pistons to a 17-point win in Game 3.

And despite our descriptive title, we can't discount the vital contribution from the Pistons front court. Ben Wallace got the Pistons party started, and he got it started quickly with a steal, a dunk and a free throw to complete the three-point play. Then, it was -- What? Who? -- Antonio McDyess who finished it off. It was a performance the Pistons expected from themselves and they were thrilled not only to get a win, but to do so in front of the Palace faithful.

"We needed to do something. We had a sellout crowd here waiting to cheer for something," Wallace said. "We knew we had to come out early and give them something to cheer for and get them excited, and also get everybody else motivated and ready to play.

"Once we got the crowd into it, we were able to play off of them." And compared to the SBC Center crowd, The Palace fans held their own. While no measurement on our decibel meter reached the unofficial Finals record of 114 dB at SBC in Game 2 for Tim Duncan's introduction, the Palace did reach 110 dB on more than one ocassion during the game.

So, for Pistons fans, their hard work did pay off into a Detroit victory.

As for the win, maybe Ben's 'fro had something to do with the hunger for a victory. Or, thanks to Wallace's wife, maybe just hunger.

"She said let your hair down," Wallace said, "and go out there and play some basketball, or else you canít eat."

The Things You Learn
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 15 2005, 2:50 a.m. ET

Although we have seen thousands of basketball games and been to other Finals before, we learned many things tonight during Game 3:

-- The Finals record for blocks in a game is eight*
-- Antonio McDyess can still play
-- The Pistons can hit a three
-- The Spurs can allow 90 points in a Finals game
-- With 20 fastbreak points, the Pistons know how to run
-- An NBA employee can take 19,800 steps during a Finals game, roughly the equivalent of 10 miles
-- And a Finals Blog contains 23,705 characters and spaces (give or take a few) or roughly the equivalent of ...

We're not sure what the equivalent is. Guess we still have some things to learn.

*(It looked as if Ben Wallace would shatter that after he had five blocks in the first quarter, but he didn't get another rejection)

The '90s
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:52 p.m. ET

Well, that's a first, and frankly amazing. When Rip Hamilton hit the long two from the top of the key, the Pistons became the first team ever to score 90 points in a Finals game against the Spurs, who hadn't allowed any opponent to reach that mark in 13 previous Finals games.

As for Detroit scoring 90-plus, that's impressive for a team that couldn't score for its Finals' life in the first two games.

And now it's over, as Darko Milicic has entered the game for the Pistons.

Sponsored by the Letter "B"
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:44 p.m. ET

With 5:32 left in the fourth, both Billups and Big Ben are on the bench. Interesting.

U Got the Look
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:43 p.m. ET

Much has been said as to what good friends the two coaches, Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich, are. And while the two are close, their in-game demeanors are completely different. There's the Larry Brown incredulous look. The Brown "I've a migraine" look where he places his pinky and his thumb on his temples and tries to push his glasses into his skull.

Then there's Popovich, who often during game action, looks implacable. Unless, of course, his team is on the wrong end of an 11-2 run, as they just were.

Chauncey's Back
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:25 p.m. ET

For two consecutive Finals series, Chauncey Billups has been the Pistons' most consistent player and tonight, he's been the hottest Piston as of late, scoing 12 of his team-high 20 in the second half.

Loud, Louder, Loudest
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:25 p.m. ET


Pistons fans know how to turn it up.
(D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Detroit's run in the third quarter also feuled a rise in the decibel level. Check this out:

104 - Billups three-pointer at 4:15
105 - B. Wallace put back 2.56
106 - Hunter end-to-end at 1:13
108 - McDyess steal and score at 1:00

Nice work, Pistons fans. Better yet for the fans, nice work by the Pistons.

DEE-TROIT...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:23 p.m. ET

... BASKET-BALL! That's PA announcer John Mason's signature call. He does get this crowd hyped. And like a rock group who is so beloved that they have their lyrics sung back to them, as soon as Mason says, "Dee-troit," he lets the crowd finish with "BASKET-BALL!"

He sure knows how to cater to the fans.

Up In Arms
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11:20 p.m. ET

Two steals in the backcourt had The Palace faithful up in arms. A third, this one by Rip Hamilton, has this place on its ear. Then, Horry's goaltending sent this place into hysterics. Man, it's loud.

The Pistons have a five-point lead going into the final quarter. The last time the Pistons held a lead at the end of a quarter, they led 20-17 at the end of one in Game 1.

Big Ben
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 11 p.m. ET

Big Ben's reverse slam had this place on its ear. What a play! It even got Eminem out of his seat waving a towel. It looked as if Ben was going to set a screen then broke for the hoop. We'll get a dB reading for you soon.

Bankin' It
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 10:48 p.m. ET

The Palace went beserk when Rip Hamilton hit the running bank shot to give the Pistons a five-point lead. That was Rip's second bucket in a row. When was the last time that happened in this series?

Three ... Is the Magic Number
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 10:48 p.m. ET

Chauncey Billups' three-pointer to give the Pistons a brief 44-42 lead was the Pistons' first since 9:55 of the first quarter of Game 1 and only the second made three for the Pistons in the series.

Oh, annd Tim Duncan just picked up his third foul.

A Little Bit Louder Now...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 10:42 p.m. ET

Here's the latest update on how loud the Palace got during the first half.

Big Shot Rob
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 10:22 p.m. ET

No, not me. Robert Horry. The Spurs forward just sen a Finals record for career three-pointers when he hit his 43rd career trey to put the Spurs up 41-38. He passed some guy named Michael Jordan.

NBA Superfan
Posted by Martin Sumners (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 10:01 p.m. ET


Superfan flies into The Finals
(Robert Laberge/Getty Images/NBAE)

Known as the NBA Superfan, James Goldstein is at Game 3. A guru of fashion and architecture, he is here in his usual snake skin boots and leather cowboy hat. He has been covered by the media in many NBA cities and other publications for his devotion to the league.

"I did begin to like Phoenix, but donít really have one team I root for. I am a NBA fan. I go way back before many of the others [celebrity fans]."

Oops!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:55 p.m. ET

Now, there's something you don't see every day: A Pistons fastbreak, complete with an alley-oop finish. The Palace crowd seemed to rise with Prince on that play.

Speaking of oops, Tim Duncan just picked up a technical foul. Referee Joey Crawford doesn't mess around, that's for sure.

End O' One
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:50 p.m. ET

The Palace crowd is a little stunned. Despite Ben Wallace's inspired play, the Pistons are down 27-21 at the end of one quarter.

One reason for that is the Spurs are shooting .588 from the field.

During the break between quarters, they showed celebrities on the video board. Oscar-winner Eminem grabbed the loudest cheers. (Yes, I said Oscar-winner.) And another update, our man on his feet, Marc Hirschheimer has logged 14,725 steps through one quarter or 7.3 miles. Here's hoping he's grabbed some food along the way to keep up his strength.

Rock Blockin' Beats
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:45 p.m. ET


Ben stuffs Timmy
(Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Big Ben Wallace has five blocks in the game already. The Finals record for a game is eight. A game. Just a note.

Fear the 'Fro
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:40 p.m. ET

Ben Wallace let his hair down, er, up tonight and has the 'fro flowin'. Looks good and it seems to have Samson-like powers to get the Pistons moving.

It's the first time in the series Big Ben has his 'fro on and maybe, just maybe, because of it the Pistons have had some other firsts tonight, such as:

-- Tonight was the first time they scored first in the series
-- The first time the Pistons have been able to make it into the lane for easy buckets
-- This is the first time we've seen Big Ben guarding Duncan for an amount of time

Big Ben on Wallace also gave us our highest early decibel reading, too. Big Ben's block on Duncan registered at 110 on the dB meter. Ben's opening dunk registered a 109 and his intro was 108 dB. The Palace crowd giving Manu a hearty "Boooooooooo" read at 10-boooooooo, er, 102 dB.

Ice in the House
Posted by Martin Sumners (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:20 p.m. ET

NBA legend George "Iceman" Gervin, cool as ever down on the floor prior to tip-off, was still excited about the Finals. "Just like NBA.com says, 'This is where legends are born.'"

Being a part of the NBA Legendís Tour, Gervin gets to spend some time with the gameís earlier stars and mingle with those he calls "young fellas." He also gets to see some great basketball.

"This is the time you show what you are about. I mean a lot of players can score early in the season but nobody remembers that. You have to do it when it counts."

The native of Detroit who made his name in San Antonio as a Spur is happy for the success of the Pistons but his allegiance is with the Spurs.

"I became a Hall-of-Famer in San Antonio and have made my home there for 30 years," said Gervin.

Manu? Man-Booooooooo
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:14 p.m. ET

Guess who got the loudest raspberries during the Spurs' introductions? Not Tim Duncan.

Another interesting effect in The Palace. The sound bounces, so when they do a chant with the sticks, half of The Palace sounds like it's saying, "Let's Go Pistons" while the other half is clapping the sticks.

Star Spangled Stevie
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9:10 p.m. ET

Wow. The Star Spangled Banner on a harmonica? Way to go Stevie. That's one of the hardest songs to sing. I can only imagine how hard it is to play.

Thunderous Sticks
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 9 p.m. ET

The first "Let's Go Pistons" started in the second level, complete with Thunder Stix (the inflatable thingies fans bang together). Should be nice and loud tonight.

Exit, Enter
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 8:50 p.m. ET

Stevie performed his new single, "So What The Fuss." He sounded really good, but that's the only song he did. I think people wanted more, but hey, we do have a game to play.

The Pistons are just about to come onto the floor and this place is nuts. We'll have a decibel reading for you in a bit.

"Everybody Say, 'Yeah!'"
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 8:40 p.m. ET


Stevie rocks the Palace!
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

We borrowed the title for this blog entry from Stevie Wonder's first No. 1 hit (he's had, oh, a million No. 1 hits) "Fingertips Part 2." It looks as if Stevie will be doing a little concert before the game. They've rolled out the instruments onto the court. We'll let you know how the Motown legend sounds.

The Mood
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 8:25 p.m. ET

It's still little more than 40 minutes to tip off, but The Palace is filling quickly. A blimp with a local financial company circles the arena, the global broadcasters are doing their "stand-ups" (reports) from the Palace floor and a re-mixed version of The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" blares through the sound system.

That being said, the Pistons faithful don't seem subdued. I think they believe that their "Boys" will give it to the Spurs as good as they've gotten it in the first two games.

Ooh, "Jungle Boogie" from Kool and the Gang. You may remember that song from "Pulp Fiction." Or, you may not. Though, if there's one thing about the Palace that's great is they play cool music before, during and after the game.

(Foot) Prints of the Palace
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 7:25 p.m. ET

Covering The Finals is hardly a sedentary affair. While many of us spend time at our PCs, other NBA staff member log miles during games.

"Miles?" you ask incredulously? "No one walks miles during The F..."

Shhh. They do. And we have the numbers to prove it. Marc Hirschheimer, a Senior Director with NBA Entertainment, is the Richard Hamilton of the NBA staff here in Auburn Hills. He's attached a pedometer to his comfy shoes and will measure the amount of ground he covers during Game 3.

He logged more than 8,505 steps in the first two hours he spent at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Approximately 2,000 steps equal a mile. Rough math puts him at 4.25 miles already. He has many miles to go before he sleeps tonight.

And while Marc walked, Stevie Wonder rehearsed "The Star Spangled Banner." Earlier, I said Stevie would be singing the anthem. Well, he'll be performing it, but he won't be singing. Tune in to find out Stevie's unique take on the "Banner."

Fandom
Posted by Brad Friedman and Martin Sumners (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 6:31 p.m. ET

We ran into two big Pistons icons outside of the arena several hours before Game 3, Superfan and Afroman.

Superfan is, you guessed it, one of the Pistons biggest fans. In addition to telling us he's buddies with Rick Mahorn, Darvin Ham and Chauncey Billups, he also says he gets his haircuts at the same barbershop that Joe Dumars does. Afroman, a staff member of the Pistons' Palace Patrol event team, rides on a little bicycle during timeouts with an afro wig on.

Despite the 2-0 hole Detroit finds itself in, both were optimistic about the Pistons' chances.

"Ginobili is tough. But we're going to put them on Ice tonight," said Superfan.

"It's going seven games. We'll win all them here, lose one in San Antonio and win Game 7," said Afroman, whose real name is Buddy Frantz.

Superfan knows a thing or two about winning. Just recently, the 34-year-old, whose real name is Antwon Murray, returned from the Special Olympics where he won a gold in the Standing Long Jump and Softball Throw and a silver in the 100-year dash.

Afroman's gig began during Ben Wallace's first year with the Pistons, when Eric Montross was still with the squad. The Pistons had a Big Hair/No Hair promotion night in which fans with afros and shaved heads gained free admittance into the arena. From there, the afro-craze caught on.

Palatial
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 14 2005, 5:30 p.m. ET


We're back at the Palace!
(Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images)

Hey, we're here, live at the Palace. On the floor right now, Automotion, the Pistons dance team, is warming up just down the court from the string quintet who will accompany legend (and musical genius) Stevie Wonder when he sings the National Anthem tonight.

We'll be out and about the Palace of Auburn Hills tonight talking to fans and, yes, measuring the crowd noise here. We'd like to see how it compares to the zanies at the SBC Center in Game 2. They reached 114 during Tim Duncan's introduction, six dB fewer than needed to blow the needle off the meter.

My prediction? It'll be pretty close. No, not the game, the decibel readings. This Palace seats 4,000 more people than the SBC Center, but unlike other modern arenas where the luxury boxes are mostly below the upper deck, a row of boxes rings the arena above the second level, allowing this place to be more intimate like the older arenas.

One Thousand Words
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 13 2005, 4 a.m. ET


Manu brought his "A" game again.
(Roland Martinez/Getty Images/NBAE)

(Photo posted at 12:29 a.m. ET with comment: We'll add words to this photo later. But for now, this photo speaks for itself.)

Like a champ.

It's a simple phrase we would throw around when we were younger.

"He shoots like a champ. He runs like a champ. He throws like a champ. He parties like a champ."

It was praise, but it wasn't effusive or gushing. It was a recognition of that person's skills, but stopped short of proclaiming greatness.

So far in this Finals, Manu Ginobili has been a champ. And he's two games away from making the San Antonio Spurs champs along with him.

Ginobili has been nothing short of stellar in Games 1 and 2. He followed up his 26 points and nine rebounds from Game 1 with 27 points and seven assists in Game 2. From scoring to rebounding to getting his teammates involved, there's nothing Manu hasn't done in the first two games.

"Yes, I knew it was going to be harder for me to finish at the rim," Ginobili said about his role as distributor. "So I tried to because I knew they were going to be worried about it, so I thought a little more on trying to find the open guys, move the ball and be patient."

Still Ginobili reached the free throw line 13 times and sank 11 of his charity throws. Overall, the Spurs went to the line 34 times compared to the Pistons' 16 attempts.

And therein lies the difference in this series: The Spurs have been flat out more aggressive than the Pistons. They've been more aggressive to the hoop, on executing their offense and on putting the clamps on the champs, whose deficiencies on offense have been exposed when their guards can't fill it consistently. In two games, Richard Hamilton has scored 28 points on a woeful 12 for 36 shooting performance from the field.

That, and the Pistons seemingly have no corrected their mistakes on defense. Wide open jumpers and smooth sailing through the lane has been the norm for the Spurs through the first two games. And Ben Wallace is not happy as evidenced by this post game Q&A.

Q. What do you think the defenseÖÖ?
Wallace: "We didnít play no defense. Thatís my final question. Iím done."

And the first part of the statement was far more accurate than the Pistons outside shooting. In Game 2, Detroit clanged all six shots from beyond the arc. They appear timid and look like they're thinking before every shot they take. They have done nothing, so far, on instinct.

Speaking of which, it will be many observers' instinct to proclaim this series over. And while the most referenced stat has been how only two teams have ever started The Finals 0-2 and come back to win the whole enchilada, one of the more interesting stats from The Finals is this:

The Spurs became the first team since the 1951 Rochester Royals to win the first two games by more than 15 points.

Why is this important to disheartened Pistons fans? Because the opponent in that Finals series, the New York Knicks, is the only team in NBA history at any level of the playoffs, to lose the first three games of the series and rally to tie the series at 3-3.

Rochester would go on to win Game 7 for the franchise's only NBA title. But Pistons fans, there's hope.

If you know how to look for it.

Then again, if the Pistons play like a champ, the series may come back to them.

That's it for tonight's blog. Next, we'll see you from the great state of Michigan.

Long, Quiet Flight Home
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:53 p.m. ET

Well, that's it for Game 2 as the Spurs spanked the Pistons by 21, 97-76. On the flight back to Detroit, I can't imagine too much jocularity from the jocks in red, white and, after tonight's game, very blue.

We'll have more thoughts in a moment.

MVP
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:45 p.m. ET

When Tim Duncan went to the line earlier in the third quarter, the Spurs fans began the "M-V-P" chant.

Then, they changed their mind. Especially when Many Ginobili stepped to the line. Then the chant became louder and gathered force. M-V-P! M-V-P!

With Ginobili scoring 27 and dishing seven assists, the SBC faithful may be on to something.

20th Letter of the Alphabet
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:41 p.m. ET

This portion of the Pistons drive to repeat as NBA champions has been sponsored by the letter T, as in Larry Brown and Chauncey Billups picking up a quick T each.

Beyond the Arc, Into the Abyss
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:40 p.m. ET

I didn't know this, but I should have figured. The Pistons are oh-fer from three-point range.

Bowen From the Corner
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:37 p.m. ET

Uh, guys (Pistons). Bruce Bowen's in the corner for an open three. He likes that spot ... oh! From an eight-point deficit to 15 in the blink of an eye. That's a 109 on the decibel meter. It was also reported that a guy screaming directly into the decibel meter was 105 dB.

It Goes to 111
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:37 p.m. ET

Our decibel meter set a new in-game record at 110 dB when ... the Spurs returned to the floor after a timeout? Interesting.

Under 10
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:32 p.m. ET

What's this? A Spurs' single-digit lead with 7:12 in the fourth quarter. The Pistons haven't been within 10 since 6:32 in the second quarter.

Uh oh, the Pistons run may be stymied by Rasheed Wallace picking up his fifth foul.

One Quarter to Go
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:12 p.m. ET

With 12 minutes left in regulation, the Pistons still trail the Spurs by 16, the same as the halftime margin.

And one thing is for sure, the Pistons have not had any success in taking the crowd out of the game. Our decibel dude continues to register readings well into the 100s with Manu's last three registering in the Udrih range --109.

Oh, by the way, Ginobili just missed his first shot (and second). He's 6 for 8 with 19 points, six dimes and three board. That's a good night. And we have a quarter to play.

Yee-Haw
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11:10 p.m. ET

Remember last game when we asked, "Why doesn't the Spurs' Coyote wear pants?"

Well, we found out why. He likes chaps.

To make a long story short, the Coyote led the Silver Dancers, also in chaps, in a timeout routine. The crowd loved it to the tune of 100 dB.

In the Pistons' Head
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 11 p.m. ET

The Spurs have taken up residence in the Pistons head and don't look like they'll be breaking the lease any time soon.

Hesitant and unsure, the Pistons look as if they don't want to shoot. And that's the worst frame of mind to be in when you need points. Sounds obvious, but Lindsey Hunter has been the most aggressive Piston with the ball.

Rip Roarin'
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 10:50 p.m. ET

Rip Hamilton, after feeling there's been a bit too much contact on his drives into the paint, finally made a layup and then made his feelings known.

His feelings were not appreciated and referee Danny Crawford showed how he felt by perpendicularly placing one hand on top of the other in the form of a T. And that's not the officials' signal for a timeout.

As of this posting, the Spurs have opened a 20-point can of kick butt on the Pistons. How? Another wide open "J" by Tony Parker.

I hate to say this, but the 2005 Finals Pistons look like the 2004 Finals Lakers right now.

TD
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 10:44 p.m. ET

TD. Tim Duncan.

TD. Total domination.

TD. Tepid Detroit.

TD... Uh. I got nothing.

Anyway, Tim Duncan and the Spurs dominated the first half. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have 36 of the Spurs' 58 points on a combined .764 shooting. That's, as the kids say today, off the chain. The Spurs as a whole are shooting .588, a number that'll cause Larry Brown to go into conniptions at halftime.

The line of easy buckets has been long for the Spurs so far. If Detroit wants to salvage anything from this trip other than a team gathering to watch the Mike Tyson fight last night at the hotel, then they're going to need to get off the stool and fight.

Bill and the Admiral
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 10:30 p.m. ET

Our interpid dB meter dude, Adam Bloom, has been scurrying around the SBC Center and is showing there is no respite from the noise. His first quarter readings were from the 100 Section of the SBC Center, which is the lower bowl. He moved upstairs in the second quarter and not much has changed, except for the attention he's receiving from the fans.

Anyway, Bill Russell received one of the loudest cheers I've ever heard him receive at an NBA event (All-Star, Finals, etc.) at 105 dBs. Then, there was the defeaning roar for 5-0, the Admiral, David Robinson. He registered 109 on the dB meter, which puts him at the Udrih, I mean, upper level.

Maybe next time, Admiral.

Meanwhile, here's the newest "You Are Hear" graphic. Check it out.

Mr. June
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 10:23 p.m. ET

Ever wonder why Robert Horry has five title rings in five tries? Well, beside the fact he was on teams with Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal.

He just made his third steal in the backcourt, sprawling across the floor for another theft. Amazing.

As for the Pistons, we were right. ABC flashed a stat that the 58 points the Pistons have surrendered in the first half are the most in the last two postseasons.

Oh, and by the way, the Spurs have never given up 90 or more points in a Finals game. Chew on that.

You Are Hear!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 10:12 p.m. ET

How crazy are we with our new toy? We'll we have a graphic to go along with the decibel meter.

Check it out.

As for the Pistons, one NBA.com reporter said this: "When's the last time the Pistons gave up 51 points in the first half."

"Yeah," chimed in another .commer. "And with 3:36 left in the half."

One thing I've noticed is the amount of open looks on the perimeter the Spurs have had. The Pistons seemingly have a Spurs' hand in their face at all times. That, and no Piston has set a hard pick on Bruce Bowen yet this series.

Two Turnovers
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 9:59 p.m. ET

Oy! I don't know whether Robert Horry's two steals in the Pistons backcourt were great plays by Mr. June or whether they showed the Pistons lack of concentration.

Probably both.

Guess who's received the loudest cheer so far on a Spurs basket? Beno Udrih at 109 dB. Impressive throat by the Spurs fans on that one.

Rip In
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 9:50 p.m. ET

Manu Ginobili's three-pointer to give the Spurs a 28-16 lead registered at 109 dB on the meter. It goes to 120 dB. We haven't reached that yet.

No word on what the dB level is on the Pistons' five -- FIVE -- free throws they clanked in the first quarter. Gotta make the easy ones, gents.

As for the high stakes of Game 2, Pistons coach Larry Brown knows the score. He re-inserted Rip Hamilton into the game with two fouls late in the first quarter. It's clear that Brown wants, no needs, Rip on the floor.

Wasting No Time
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 9:36 p.m. ET

Jumping to an 11-2 lead, shooting 6 for 9 through the first six minutes, the Spurs just don't want to put the Pistons in a 2-0 hole, they want to throw the dirt on top already.

During that run, we kept some stats... Not normal, shooting stats, but decibel stats. Here's how the run sounded:

-- End of National anthem peaked at 105 dB
-- Spurs introductions, peak at 112 dB with Tim Duncan then 111 dB for Manu Ginobili
-- Manu's opening three-pointer, 113 dB, Spurs up 3-0
-- Bruce Bowen's three-pointer, 114 dB, Spurs up 8-0
-- Nazr Mohammed three-point play, 108 dB, Spurs up 13-6
-- Duncan three-point play, 105 dB, Spurs up 16-8
So there you have it. For some balance, when Rasheed scored on Duncan, it was 88 dB.

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood
Posted by Brad Friedman (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 9:12 p.m. ET

We ran into David Robinson on the baseline as the Spurs were going through their layup lines. The Admiral was excited to see his former team playing for the Larry O'Brien trophy.

"I've been proud of them all year," he said. "I thought they could get here. Phoenix was looking good and scary there for a long time but our team's consistency has just been phenomenal. That's what they're going to try to lean on for this Finals."

When asked whether Duncan can be considered an all-time great, Robinson said, "In my eyes Timmy's already proved himself to be one of the top, top players. I think he's going to probably continue to prove himself to be better."

And We're BACK!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 9:03 p.m. ET

Tooled around the SBC Center for a while, enjoyed the mariachi band and caught a glimpse of David Robinson, Bill Russell and Eva Longoria, in no particular order.

It's just before tip off and, per usual, this place is packed.

When the Spurs took the floor, our decibel meter registered the crowd noise at 105 dB or the equivalent of a jackhammer. That can't be good for the ear drums.

OK, national anthem. Back in a second.

Game 2
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 6:50 p.m. ET

We're here at the SBC Center for Game 2. Will the Pistons rebound not only from their Game 1 loss, but also, just in general? Will the Spurs put the Pistons in a historically difficult 2-0 hole? How difficult? Only two teams, the 1969 Celtics and the 1977 Trail Blazers have ever come back from a 2-0 deficit to win The Finals.

In short, the Pistons need a win.

We're off to walk around the arena. Back in a few.

River of Dreams
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 6:45 p.m. ET


Letters so huge, they must be transported by boat.
(Adam Bloom/NBAE Images)

One of San Antonio's main attractions, beside its NBA team, is the Riverwalk, a 2.5 mile park lined with restaurants and shops along the meandering San Antonio River in the heart of downtown. Tour boat skim along the river, taking tourists to and fro. Brad Friedman talked to Joey Barrios a boat capitan and ambassador with Rio San Antonio Cruises to get a feel for the town's feeling for the Black and Silver.

Q: What was last series like 2003?

Barrios: "Unbelievable man. The streets were jam-packed. As soon as they won the championship, it was jam-packed. St. Mary's Street, Commerce Street, the whole downtown area. You could hear the horns of the cars. Whatever you had you were honking it. If you had a blow horn, you were trying your hardest to let it be heard. There was screaming, everything. It was unbelievable. Being the only sports franchise in the city, besides the WNBA, they love the Spurs. It's everything here. You get the fanatical fans, that go all out.

"They're more into it (now then the 2003 season). It's unbelievable. When it comes to the Spurs, they get hyped up. This is what they wait for all year long -- the playoffs. The regular season now is just like a formality you have to go through. We expect to be in the Conference Finals or The Finals every year since we got Tim. It's pretty cool -- I know how the Bulls felt with Jordan. "

Q: How do people feel about the Spurs?

Barrios: "The Spurs are loved -- since back in the ABA days all the way to now.

"Me, I was a youngster, watching the Iceman growing up. I have fond memories of that. Being very lucky getting David Robinson and then Tim Duncan, we've been blessed. It took us many years, but we're on track now."

Q:What do you think about this series?

Barrios: "It's gonna be a tough matchup. Everything starting-wise is pretty even starting-wise. I think the bench is going be the difference. (Brent) Barry, Beno, Robert Horry. You know there going to make something happen. "

So there you have it, the word from the, um, watery street.

GIN-O-BILI! (Get over here...)
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 12 2005, 4:00 p.m. ET


Scouts say young Ginobili is already a great dribbler...
(Tony Stewart/NBAE Images)

When TNT's Charles Barkley yells "Gin-o-bili" he usually does so with joy and exultation.

When Renee San Miguel and Jorge Ramirez yell "Ginobili!" in the future, it could possibly mean one little boy has gotten into trouble.

You see, Renee and Jorge named their newborn son ... you guessed it, Ginobili. See, we told you this town hearts its team.

"We're big Spurs fans," Renee told 1200 WOAI's Bud Little last Monday from a San Antonio hospital room.

The couple said they decided to name their son Ginobili Jose Ray San Miguel Ramirez because their other children's names started with a "G". In doing so, they passed over Spurs legend George Gervin (take your pick -- George or Gervin) and current coach Gregg Popovich.

"We hope he lives up to his name and becomes a famous basketball player too," Renee said.

No pressure, kid. Though it will be cool, he'll be one of the few kids -- other than a million Chicago kids named Jordan and few named Buford (Rodney) -- who can wear with an authentic jersey with his first name on his back.

Anyway, the NBA.com crew is getting ready for Game 2. In the past two days, we've produced a ton of great stories. Just check out the links underneath the Spurs and Pistons logos on The Finals page.

Tonight, NBA Commissioner David Stern will address the media and Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem from the Persian Gulf. Also, we've mentioned how loud the SBC Center gets during games. Well, we're going to prove it. We got our dirty mitts on a decibel meter to measure the crowd noise.

Here's a handy little reference guide as to what our readings will represent:

20 dB -- A faint whisper (as if there is any other kind of whisper)
30-40 dB -- Quiet pleasant sounds, a bird chirping (the swishing sound of the net, maybe)
40-50 dB -- Quiet to normal office sounds (I get chewed out a lot, so this doesn't hold for me)
50-60 dB -- Normal conversation (this refers to volume, not content matter)
70-90 dB -- Heavy machinery, electric motors, garbage disposal, city traffic (my snoring)
100-120 dB -- Jack hammer, power saw, motorcycle, lawn mower, rock music (The Who was said to be the loudest)
145+ dB -- Jet engine (or Stephen A. Smith on ESPN)

So, join us later at the SBC Center. We look forward to blogging with you.

Day Off
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 11 2005, 12:55 a.m. ET


Carlos Arroyo stars in "Honey, I Shrunk the Spurs!"
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE Images)

Well, it's been a good day in San Antonio (and a long one), so this blog will be relatively short.

While walking around the Alamo City, you can really feel the love this town has for its team, whether it's every other car/pickup truck (usually a pickup) with a slightly worn Spurs flag flapping as said car/pickup truck races down the expressway. You can see it in the front of the Hilton's Palacio del Rio, which has lit its balconies to read: "Go Spurs." You can see it on one child's birth certificate (pictures on that tomorrow).

We've also noticed Manu-mania has taken over San Antonio. An extremely unscientific survey of Spurs jerseys at the SBC Center during Game 1 showed that Ginobili jerseys rivaled that of the great Tim Duncan. Not a small feat for a third-year player who has a two-time league and Finals MVP as a teammate.

As for the teams themselves, both treated Friday as a respite from the intensity of Game 1. Around noon CT, a mere 13 hours after the Spurs had shellacked the Pistons by 15 in Game 1 of the Finals, the teams, albeit separately, were back on the court at the SBC Center.

Whereas before Game 1 on Wednesday, the teams practiced and seemed eager for the play to begin, today, they just met the media, whom they weren't always pleased to see.

After offering two or three sentence answers to some of the first questions thrown his way, Ben Wallace, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, flat out rejected a question about whether his block against Manu Ginobili was actually a block.

"Next question."

Simply, sternly said. Someone asked him if he was angry.

"Naw, man. I ain't never angry. I've got too much to live for."

Then someone asked Ben how he felt, what he was thinking and what his (and the team's) state of mind was.

Each question was used to try to drag more out of Big Ben, but he wouldn't budge. Finally, someone just asked Ben how he felt.

"Sleepy," drawing guffaws from the gathered throng.

Media availability was a sleepy affair. A number of Pistons players, including Rasheed Wallace, brought their children to practice. Rasheed, who had his kids in the interview room with him, sent them ahead and then met them on the court. Wallace's sons, who were wearing dad's No. 36 (facing forward, not backward like their dad does with his practice jersey) ran up to him and gave him a hug. Sheed noticed something on his son's cheek and gently rubbed it off.

Later, when Pistons assistant Gar Heard called the players into the locker room to watch film, Sheed gave his sons some instructions.

"Daddy's got to go to the locker room. Now, you stay out on the floor. I don't want to come out to find you fighting. Have a good time and behave."

Soon, the Motown munchkins had the run of the place as the sound of balls bouncing off the hardwood and the squeak of tiny mid-rise sneakers echoed throughout the near empty SBC Center.

By looks on the faces of the remaining media who enjoyed the spectacle, everyone seemed to agree the sound of children playing was a good sound.

Three To Go
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 2:45 ET


Tres for tres now, folks.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE Images)

Just some final Finals thoughts on Game 1.

This game had two stars and two turning points. First, the turning points.

With his team down two, 55-53, Pistons center Ben Wallace found himself on the wing guarding the Spurs' lighting quick guard Manu Ginobili. Mismatch? Could have been, but Wallace played Ginobili well. He planted himself in Ginobili's path and fell hard when he and Ginobili met.

Charge? No. Block. Big Ben was incensed. He chimed in and promptly received a technical foul. The Spurs promptly went on a 19-4 run, seemingly to put the game away.

The Pistons, as they often do, clawed their way back into the game, getting as close as seven at 74-67 on a Rip Hamilton dunk. On the other end, Bruce Bowen missed a shot and Rasheed Wallace looks as if he has the rebound. But the ball trickled out of his hands and out of bounds. Spurs ball.

What happened next? Manu Ginobili crossed over Hamilton on the wing, cut down the lane as the Pistons made like the Red Sea for Moses and slammed the door shut on the Pistons' hopes to win Game 1.

Which brings us directly to star No. 1. We said it once and we'll say it again: An impressive performance by Manu Ginobili. Before Game 1, we noted that Manu could be the X-factor in the series. We were right, for a game at least. And of course, there was Tim Duncan, who went for -- ho-hum -- 24 points and 17 boards. Think of it as Tim just being Tim.

Then, there was Bruce Bowen's defense on Rip Hamilton. Bowen clung to Hamilton like Tom Cruise to Katie Holmes, and Rip looked about as comfortable as Holmes. Hamilton went 7 for 21 and Bowen had a hand in Hamilton's face at all times.

Also, it looked as if the ball bounced the Spurs way all night. And it wasn't just on the Sheed turning point. No, it seemed as if the Spurs gathered in every loose ball. We saw one play where the ball bounced off Ben Wallace, then Rasheed, then Tayshaun Prince and into Tim Duncan's hands. Pistons coach Larry Brown noticed Detroit's lethargy early.

"I didn't think we," Brown said, "other than the first seven, eight minutes, matched their energy. Their effort was phenomenal. I thought the whole game."

Then the question for Game 2 on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ABC) is: Will the Pistons be ready for Game 2? And when we say ready, we wonder if will they be hungry, will they be angry, will they be Pistoned enough to make Game 2 theirs? Here's thinking the defending champs won't be played for chumps again.

As for the mood in San Antonio after the Game 1 win? Jovial. Horns honked, headlights flashed and people made impromptu streamers out of toilet paper. Quite a heady celebration for a Game 1 win.

Then again, when you're a Spurs fan, your fanaticism is a birth right. Shortly after the game around 11:30 p.m. CT, we saw a gentleman with a tiny baby in a baby carrier standing in the 200 level of the SBC Center. The child was awake.

How old?

"Three months."

Wow. How did he handle the noise?

"He just woke up," the gentleman said. "He had his noise reduction headphones on the whole time."

The dad tickled his baby's cheeks. The baby smiled.

"See," his dad said. "He liked the game."

Why wouldn't he? For Spurs fans, young and old, there were many reasons to smile.

Manu
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:59 ET

Well, if you didn't think Manu Ginobili was a superstar, did his 26-point, nine-board performance in the Spurs' 84-69 Game 1 convince you?

Discuss. We'll be back in a moment.

Chuck
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:52 ET

If Charles Barkley were here, we know what he'd say.

GIN-O-BILI!

Sure, when you score 13 of your 24 points in the fourth, you deserve a shout out.

Block This!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:49 ET

The Finals records for combined block shots in a game is 23 by New Jersey and San Antonio on June 11, 2003. Tonight, as of 3:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, these teams have combined for 18.

Life is all about handling rejection. So far, the Spurs have handled it better than the Pistons.

Sharp Spurs
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:36 ET

At 5:11 of the first quarter, the Pistons, who played as recently as two days ago, had a 13-point lead at 17-4.

At 7:35 of the fourth quarter, the Spurs, who hadn't played in eight days, held a 67-55 lead.

That's a 25-point swing, people. I think it's OK to say that the Spurs have shaken off the rust.

If the Pistons want to get back in the game, they're going to need to attack and attack now.

Pretty Pictures
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:30 ET


The name of the game right now.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE Images)

We thought the blog was getting a bit text heavy, so we present you with Nazr Mohammed trying to reject Antonio McDyess .

That, and we think overhead shots, especially by NBA Senior Photographer Andrew D. Bernstein, are really cool.

Dads
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:20 ET

Now, there's something you don't see every day. The Spurs Silver Dancers have taken the court, but gave way to their ... dads. Let's just say there was a whole lot of khaki going on.

That, and it's interesting to see dad "Bust A Move." (Oh, Young MC, where have you gone?).

Ouch!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 11:05 ET

This statistic isn't kept, but I think this Finals may set the record for most floorburns. If someone at home would keep track, we'd really appreciate it.

The Pistons are down two, 49-47 with 2:44 left in the third. In that time, they've blocked nine shots and have nine steals. De-fense indeed.

Jump!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 10:59 ET

OK, there's a jump ball. Let's guess what pop song they'll play for the tip?

A) Van Halen's "Jump"
B) Van Halen's "Jump"
C) Van Halen's "Jump"
D) Van Halen's "Jump"
E) All of the above

I think you know the answer.

De-Fense!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 10:56 ET

When the Pistons have the ball, the Spurs game operations folks sometimes play what sounds like a tom-tom in time to the chant "De-fense! De-fense!"

Like these teams need to be told.

What it looks like from here, eventhough, as of 8:30 in the third quarter the Spurs have a 42-41 lead, is that the Spurs are hesitant to shoot.

On two consecutive possessions, the Spurs passed on wide open shots. And they weren't threes. Tim Duncan received a pass about 10 feet from the hoop on the left baseline. No one was with in four feet of him. He faked and then ... nothing. By that time, Rasheed Wallace had moved into Duncan's space and the Spurs missed a shot further from the hoop.

Then, Tony Parker broke down the Pistons defense, had a clean look at a layup and then ... passed it through the tall trees behind him.

Shoot, gents, shoot.

Summer of '69
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 10:43 ET

Bryan Adams performed "Summer of '69" at halftime. Isn't Adams, like, 69?

Oh, that was low. OK, he's not old at all, but (and I'm dating myself here) I was a freshman in high school when this song came out in 1984. Allmusic.com calls the song, "A sleek, commercialized, gloriously stupid rocker, but an entertaining one at that."

So true. No word yet if Adams, a Canadian, has applied for American citizenship yet.

Oh Shoot!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 10:30 ET

With 2:58 left in the quarter, the Spurs have shot .394 from the field, while the Pistons are a few misses behind at .389.

There's plenty of defense being played. One thing about both teams is they bust their humps getting back on defense. Fast breaks, what there are, are usually even up (two-on-two, three-on-three, two-on-three). I don't expect it to get easier in the second half.

Love Those Legends
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 10:14 ET

A number of NBA Legends made an appearance at Game 1 and were introduced during a second quarter timeout.

Bob Lanier, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, who go a quick chorus of boos and then cheers. Spurs fans remember what The Dream did to the Admiral in the 1995 Western Conference Finals. Then Artis Gilmore and Dr. J and finally San Antonio hero George Gervin. We caught up with all of them. Not only can you listen to what they had to say, you can read it too. (Mutli-media, baby!)

First, check out NBA.com's podcast of "Live at the Finals with Ahmad Rashad."

And then, we cornered the guys for interviews. Check out these Q&As with Gervin, Drexler and Gilmore.

Take the Bike!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:58 ET

Local grocer H-E-B sponsors a "toy scramble" between quarters where a ton of toys are lain at midcourt and four kids try to grab as many goodies as they can. One of the great prizes is a shiny new bike. I mean, that sucker gleamed in the spotlights.

But the kids, everyone of them, bypassed the bike. A kid would run to midcourt, grab an Elmo. Another kid, Winnie the Pooh. Another kid, another toy. But the bike stayed.

It stayed so long the PA announcer bellowed into the mike: "Take the bike!"

At the end, the bike sat there, gleaming in the television lights, unclaimed.

"Kids these days," said the PA announcer.

Indeed.

Brothers In Arms
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:58 ET

All through out media availability before Game 1, players and coaches alike noted how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Pistons coach Larry Brown were like brothers.

And after watching the, ahem, jostling during the first quarter, it got me thinking (dangerous, I know).

I love my brother, but some of the worst tussles I've ever had were with my brother during one-on-one games in the backyard. He once shoved his hand in my mouth in a steal attempt and cut my gums. Bled like mad. Another time, after he taunted me, I slugged him. Good. Stunned, he chased me down the alley. That's the fastest I've ever run.

Now, that's not to say that's going to happen here, but when brothers who love each other a lot meet on the court, sometimes it gets a little rough.

We'll see how physical the rest of the game gets. Regardless, there's a lot of woofing going on down on the court tonight.

Pantaloons!
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:52 ET

Timeouts are slightly longer in The Finals (gotta pay the bills, you know).

So, instead of getting four or five dunks from the trampoline guys, you get twice, even three times as many, which of course, the crowd loves.

Though, as we were watching the guys fly through the air, one our reporters reiterated something she noticed last night:

"Why doesn't the (Spurs mascot) Coyote wear pants?"

Hmmm... good question. We'll try to get to the, ahem, bottom of it.

Behind the Tool Sheed
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:33 ET

If we had to pick an MVP of the first five minutes, it would be Rasheed Wallace, who receives a thunderous chorus of boos every time he takes a step.

He showed his versatility on the block by doing as Tim does in San Antonio, hitting a bank shot. Then, he was caught on a switch with Manu Ginobili at the top of the key. As the Spurs cleared out to let Manu crossover Sheed, Wallace stripped Manu of the rock.

That's pretty good for a dude who's 6-11.

Hmm...
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:29 ET

The Pistons just missed a layup. Coaches, that's something for you to note.

Get a Hollywood megastar and a huge stage, and as your stagehands remove the stage, have them walk through the opponent's layup line.

Simple.

Tip Off
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:22 ET

Excellent! We're underway!

Gamesmanship
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:20 ET

One of NBA.com's intrepid reporters noticed this as the players took to the floor for a brief warmup after Will Smith's performance:

"You see home court advantage at its finest? As they broke down the stage from the pregame entertainment, they took all the pieces out through the Pistons' end of the court as Detroit was trying to shoot around and get a little warm up in. They were unable to form layup lines."

We'll note if the Pistons miss any layups early.

Raise the Woof
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:15 ET

How much does San Antonio love its Spurs? I said, How much does...

Sorry, it's so loud during Spurs player intros that I can't hear myself type.

Anyway, they love their Spurs. So much so, that Glenn Robinson, who's been in silver and black for little more than two months, already gets a "Woof, woof, woof" from the crowd in honor of his nickname, The Big Dog.

Now, that's (puppy) love.

We Found Jeff
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:12 ET

Ever wonder where Will Smith's partner and DJ of the Jazz Jeff variety has been? I mean beside producing platinum records for the likes of Jill Scott? He was DJing for Big Will during Smith's performance of "Switch" just before player intros.

When they flashed Jeff's grille on the video board, he got a huge cheer. It's nice to see people remember.

"And the Home of the Br-a-a-a-a-a-ve!"
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 9:05ET

Nice work by Alanis Morissette on the national anthem, her first public performance of the song since becoming an American citizen. She had the distinctive Morissette vibratto working during the song.

Livin' Large
Posted by Rob Peterson and Brad Friedman (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 8:40 ET


In San Antonio, even the dogs have gone to the Spurs.
(Adam Bloom/NBAE Images)

Before we get to what it's like at the SBC Center, we have a little local flavor for you.

The SBC Center holds 18,500 people and for Game 1 it's packed to the rafters. (We should know, we're up in them).

So, if you're one of many Spurs fans who can't score a seat inside and you need to cheer with your black and silver brethren, there are some seriously Texas-sized sports bars in San Antonio. NBA.com's Brad Friedman found one -- Fatso's Sports Garden -- that seats, get this, 600 people. That's a lot of wings. (More on that in a bit...)

Yes, they do everything bigger in Texas. Here's the report.

Fatso's front deck holds approximately 300 people and the inside the same number for a total seating of roughly 600. There are 50 televisions, including 10 61-inch flat screens. Tonight, said owner Steve Wilkinson, for Game 1 the staff will include six bartenders, eight to 10 waiters and waitresses, two bar backs and two bus boys.

Fatso's has been in existence for 28 years, 15 at its current location. When it began, there was nowhere to watch games in San Antonio. It recently made ESPN's Cold Pizza's best sports bars in the United States list, ranking No. 12 overall.

All those people need to eat. "We sold 4000 more chicken wings last month than the month before because of the playoffs," Wilkinson said.

As for what it's been like during the last two Spurs title runs, Wilkinson said each has been special.

"It was awesome. It was incredible," he said. "In '99 we won the first one and 2003 was incredible. We were robbed last year, we feel. Point-four seconds? Come on, give me a break. It should have been ours but I think we'll get it this year.

"I think basketball fans are going to see one of the best playoff series they've seen in a long time. You have the No. 1 defensive team in the West, the No. 1 defensive team in the East Ė when you compare apples to apples, they are both red as can be. Great, great defensive game."

Thanks, for that report. We'll have more local color in the blog as Game 1 progresses.

Here in San Antonio
Posted by Rob Peterson (NBA.com) on June 9 2005, 7:50 ET


Fans in the Alamo City have caught Spurs fever.
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)

Miss us? The Finals Blog is back ... back in San Antonio for the second time in three years. And now, we're here at the SBC Center awaiting tip off of The 2005 Finals between the San Antonio (you knew that though) Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. (You knew that too.)

We're going to leave our seats for a moment to soak up The Finals atmosphere here at the arena. We'll be back in a moment. Why?

Because it's good to be back.