Guard play promises to be intriguing
Detroit’s Title Hopes Start in the Backcourt
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 8 -- On paper, the Pistons and Spurs look evenly matched in a series many expect to go six or seven games. A closer inspection of the individual pairings gives you a real glimpse at the intrigue which lies ahead in this clash of the last two NBA Champions.
A captivating matchup we’ll see early and often starts in the backcourt, where Chauncey Billups relies on a 25-pound advantage to post-up his French counterpart, Tony Parker. On the defensive end, Billups will be tested to stay in front of the lightning-quick Parker.
“He's different than Steve Nash,” Parker said following Wednesday’s practice at the SBC Center in San Antonio. “He's going to post up more than Steve and play a little different. At the end, it's the same result: He makes big shots for his team and he always plays good under pressure. He was the [Finals] MVP last year, so he knows how to play those big games.”
At the off-guard position, Richard Hamilton remains a blur, never slowing a step as he runs off screens to find an open look. Don’t expect Rip to slow down and allow Bruce Bowen, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, to get in front of him. While Bowen can’t put a body on what he can’t catch, the Spurs’ stopper has been getting a frame-by-frame tutorial in how to subdue Hamilton.
“We have many, many, many different CDs, DVDs and things that will help you in preparation,” Bowen explained. “But at the same time, it's about playing the game on the court. You can't go back to video in crunch time.”
Hamilton is equally prepared to face the physical defender.
“One thing about Bruce,” Hamilton said before the Pistons began practice, “he's a guy that really takes pride in his defense. He's not worried about offense at all. He's a guy that really comes out and tries to use every part of his body. He's not a guy that just wants to reach and try to get steals and things like that. He'll try to bump you with his hips, his legs, his knees and everything else. You know, it's definitely a challenge.”
As Bowen looks to get physical and prevent Hamilton from getting his hands on the ball, the Pistons defensive efforts begin when Parker or Ginobili bring the ball across the midcourt line. The speedy, international duo is more familiar with paint than Benjamin Moore, causing Detroit defenders to slide over and force a stop at the basket.
“Watching them play,” said Lindsey Hunter, a key reserve who will be called to help stop Parker and Ginobili, ”they penetrate the defenses so well and create so many problems in that aspect, we can't afford to let them break us down and get our big guys in foul trouble.”
Preventing Parker and Ginobili from wreaking havoc on the Pistons' front court is a key to winning the battle of the backcourt, where the 2005 NBA Championship is likely to be won or lost.
Notes: Many experts are penciling in the Spurs as 2005 NBA Champions before a minute of the Finals has been played, much like the Lakers last year. And while the Pistons may not be getting their due respect as defending champs in the dailies, that sentiment isn't coming from the men clad in black and silver. During today's media availability, a reporter reworded a question for Nazr Mohammed to get a desired response concerning the lack of respect for the Pistons, to which Mohammed corrected the reporter, emphasizing the esteem held for their opponent.
The Pistons hold an equal respect for the Spurs, as evidenced by Lindsey Hunter's assesment on what concerns him most about their team: "They're a well-rounded team," Hunter said. "They do everything well and they have a lot of weapons. Defensively, they're a mirror image of us. In a way, it's a lot like playing yourself. I think it'll be more of a chess match."
The last time the two most recent champions met in the Finals was 1987 when the defending champion Boston Celtics lost to the L.A. Lakers, who won the title in 1985.
The Pistons are making their second back-to-back appearance in the Finals. Detroit represented the Eastern Conference from 1988-90, losing to the Lakers in 1988 before defeating the Lakers in 1989 and Portland in 1990 for the franchise's first two Championships.
Detroit's victory over Miami on Monday night marked the first time since 1984 that two No. 2 seeds knocked off two No. 1 seeds to reach the Finals.
-- Jeff Dengate will be covering the Pistons beat throughout the Finals.
NBA.com is part of Turner - SI Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network. Advertise on NBA.com | Career Opportunities | Help