SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 10 -- Because of his defense, Bruce Bowen is the type of player coaches love. Following his performance in Game 1, he was getting plenty of love from coaches.

Bowen helped shut down Pistons scoring leader Rip Hamilton, limiting him to just seven makes on 21 field goal attempts.

"I think Bruce is exceptional," Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo said at Friday's media availability session. "The more you see them night in and night out, the more you appreciate what he does. The reason I think Bruce is so good is he's so mentally tough. He understands some night's he's going to give up 30."
Brown and Rip had to have a long talk after Game 1.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty

Hamilton recorded just one assist, one rebound, zero steals and only one free throw attempt (which he missed) as he was completely taken out of his game in the Finals opener. It was a reminder of the regular season, in which Hamilton shot .308 from the field and averaged 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game against the Spurs.

"If Bruce gives up 30 in the first three quarters he's still going to play the fourth quarter the exact same way," Carlesimo said. "I know some games where Kobe went for 40 against us where I thought Bruce was unbelievable. It disrupted their offense either to get him (the ball) where it helped us even though he gave up that incredible amount of points. There are players who, when they are getting lit up like that, lose their enthusiasm for defense."

Carlesimo's colleague Larry Brown, head coach of the Pistons, expressed equal admiration for Bowen's ability, much of which cannot be measured on a stat sheet.

"The most dominating player in the game before the fourth quarter, in my mind, was Bruce Bowen," Brown said. "And he didn't score a point. He played 35 minutes, went 0-for-6 from the field and I think had two rebounds. Him, Robert Horry and Nazr Mohammed's effort was incredible. I think they had a huge impact in the game."

Heavy Heart

This season hasn't been an easy one for San Antonio Forward Glenn Robinson. The 12-year pro started out the season in Philadelphia, but injuries shelved him and a rookie, Andre Iguodala, seized the starting three spot. Robinson was then traded to the New Orleans Hornets before the trade deadline and waived shortly thereafter. He joined the Spurs in April as a free agent, his fourth team in the last three years after spending the first eight seasons of his career in Milwaukee.

Adding to the difficulty of his turbulent journey was the passing of his mother, Christine Bridgeman, 48, two weeks ago because of lung cancer. The eight-day layoff between the West Finals and the NBA Finals not only allowed the Spurs to recover from injuries, but also Robinson a chance to mourn.

"We needed that time off," he said. "It helped Tim rest and get his ankle right. And it helped me too because I missed all of last week with my mom's situation. My mom passed, God rest her soul. It gave me a chance to get a little conditioning and get my legs back."

Should the Spurs win a title, it would be a sweet end to a bitter journey.

A title would be a sweet end to a bitter season for Robinson.
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"It's been really tough," he said. "The whole year has been difficult. This is the farthest I've been in my career and it's been tough on and off the court this year. It's been frustrating, and getting here is a bit of a redemption. It would be a great thing to top this year off with an NBA championship."

Never underestimate the heart of a

The Pistons may have lost by 15 points in Game 1, but that doesn't mean you can count them out in this series.

"We expect them to respond the way champions respond, and they'll be ready to go," said Spurs guard Brent Barry. "There are a couple of guys on that basketball team that I'm sure will play much better games and we have to prepare for that. But we know how important Game 2 is for us at home.

"With three games in Detroit, it'll be really difficult. We'll have to come in and play our best game of the season Sunday, and it will be a good matchup."

The Pistons' defensive, slow-down style is a radical change of pace from the up-tempo brand of basketball the Spurs' previous opponent, Phoenix, showcased in the West Finals. The Spurs matched that style admirably. However, they don't appear committed to playing a particular way against Detroit.

"It's kind of something that is unique problem for our coaching staff," Barry said. "We have the ability to play slow, be halfcourt-oriented, and we also have some guys who can get out and run and push the pace depending on how the game goes, how it's dictated either way.

"For us, I think tempo is the key. If we can try to get into the fullcourt, get some transition baskets early, we're good."

-- Brad Friedman will cover the Spurs throughout The Finals.