The NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles set the standard for all-around play

Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson ("The Big O") is best known for averaging a triple-double for the entire 1961-62 season. At 6-5 and 215 pounds, Robertson was the first big point guard who could do everything from anywhere on the court. He is the NBA’s career leader in triple-doubles with 181 and single-season leader with 41 in '61-62.

Robertson led the NBA in assists six times and was the first player ever to lead the league in both assists (9.7 apg) and scoring average (29.2 ppg) in the same season (1967-68). He was also the first NBA guard ever to lead his team in rebounding ('61-62). The Big O actually averaged a triple double cumulatively for his first five seasons and barely missed including seasons 6 and 7. Courtside Magazine ranks his triple-double season as the greatest individual achievement in NBA history.

The Big O’s 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Royals and four with the Milwaukee Bucks included 86 playoff games, six division finals (two with Cincinnati and four with Milwaukee) and two NBA Finals with Milwaukee. In 1971, the Bucks swept Baltimore for their first and only NBA title, and took the champion Celtics to seven games in 1974. Game 6 of that series is regarded as one of the NBA’s all-time classics.


Billups knows his strengths.
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June 22 -- Yesterday we had another great game which, while it didn’t go down to the last shot, was close until the last couple of minutes. The defense was strong at both ends. I thought Rasheed Wallace did an outstanding job on Tim Duncan and he also came up big offensively when baskets were needed. The Pistons almost let the game get away from them when they got the technicals, but they got back on track. You have to understand that sometimes the refs are going to make a lot of calls you don’t like. You have to keep your composure so you don’t let the refs get to you. You want to play hard defense, but at the same time you want to save your fouls so you’re not on the bench when you’re needed most.

Thursday night’s game should be fun. Either team can win. You’re at the stage right now when you’re not going to fool anybody. Just play your normal game and focus on great execution. In particular you need your people off the bench to step up.

If the Spurs are going to win, they will need to take better care of the ball. And you can’t rely on just one or two guys, you have to get the whole team involved. When you go to the basket all the time, you risk forgetting about your mid-range jump shot. That’s pretty much a lost art anyway. I see the Pistons taking those shots sometimes, particularly Chauncey Billups when there’s a switch and he has a big man on him. But I also think players today are too quick to switch. We were taught to fight through the pick and stay with your man whenever possible. It’s good to put pressure on the other team with constant movement to the hoop, but you also need to be able to dump the ball off to guys who can create the short jump shot off the dribble, or catch and shoot from 12-15 feet.

The Pistons have to be feeling great about yesterday’s win. They showed why they’re the champions, and they’re going to be loose and ready to have fun on Thursday night. The Spurs know what they have to do if they want to knock them off. Whatever the result, I think both the NBA and the fans can be happy with the way this series has played out to the full seven games.

-- Michael O'Daniel also contributed to this report


Robert Horry was tough in the clutch for San Antonio.
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June 20 -- Sunday’s game was a great game. It could have gone either way. I think what hurt Detroit most was mental mistakes, which you cannot afford in situations like this. I thought they should have put their tallest defender on Robert Horry to try to disrupt the inbounds pass. Make the pass go to the middle of the court. And Rasheed Wallace should not have been double-teaming Manu Ginobili, but guarding Horry, which is what I think he was instructed to do. But even before it came down to the last shot, given that Horry had five fouls, why weren’t the Pistons running plays at him to get him out of the game?

On the offensive end, I thought the Pistons should have gone to Rasheed more often, instead of just at the end. You have to put pressure on Tim Duncan the entire game and make him guard his man closely (which can also help keep him off the boards). Chauncey Billups wanted the ball with the game on the line, but he was closely guarded. I would have used Rip Hamilton as a decoy and tried to get someone else open. The Pistons were in a position to win and couldn’t set up the shots they needed.

But all of this is now history. I think the momentum has shifted to the Spurs, not just because they’re back on their home court, but because they are again playing a better, more alert all-around game at both ends, and yesterday they managed to control or at least match the tempo and not let the game get away from them.

But I wouldn’t be quick to write off the Pistons either. They’ve been in must-win situations away from home before. If they are indeed the champions they will win the next two games. I think it will come down to the same four factors I highlighted before the series began: (a) who controls the tempo, (b) who adjusts better to what the other team is doing, (c) whose bench is the more productive, and (d) who stays more focused in the face of adversity. Most of the commentary I’ve read and heard so far has focused on who’s putting up the biggest numbers, but it’s the intangibles – those areas of the game where mental toughness is just as important as athletic skill -- that determine who wins.

-- Michael O'Daniel also contributed to this report


Detroit's Lindsey Hunter had plenty of reasons to smile the day after Game 4.
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June 17 -- Obviously Sunday’s game is pivotal for both teams. We’ll find out if the Pistons are playing over their heads and will come back to earth, and if the Spurs have really been taken out of their game so drastically by the Pistons and can get their act together once again.

Detroit’s bench has been much more productive the last two games, particularly Lindsey Hunter and Antonio McDyess. When the Pistons have seven guys hitting, they’re going to be hard to beat. They’ve also made some adjustments in their offensive patterns to get different looks, and at the same time San Antonio has not blocked them off the offensive board. The Spurs need to get much more dominant around the boards, as they were in the first two games.

To get back on track the Spurs need to control the game, play it at their tempo, get some penetration. And obviously they have to cut down on the turnovers and stop forcing passes. They need more production from Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry. I also think they’ve been too dependent on Tim Duncan inside; since that isn’t working, they need to get Nazr Mohammed into the flow. Right now they don’t have a presence inside. Rasheed Wallace has risen to the occasion and done a great job on Duncan outside and not really let him get inside, and Ben Wallace has helped inside big-time. In particular they’ve taken away the bank shot that Duncan relies on.

I think the Spurs have always depended to a certain extent on getting the calls from the officials to make their inside game work. Any time you run into people the game gets bruising and it becomes a question of who’s charging and who’s blocking, or should a foul be called at all. Right now neither team is benefiting from the officiating in that area.

In order to turn things around, the Spurs need a much more effective and aggressive transition game at both ends. When they have the ball they have to put pressure on the opposition, without forcing shots or passes, and when they’re on defense they have to guard everyone and make them make the shots. When a team is as hot as the Pistons are right now, you cannot let shots go unchallenged, and you certainly cannot let them have second and third shots whenever they put the ball up.

In a seven-game series, the best team is going to win. It still remains to be seen who that team is.

-- Michael O'Daniel also contributed to this report


The Spurs have had plenty of reason to celebrate.
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June 13 -- San Antonio is just playing its normal game, and the Pistons are not handling them. One of the characteristics of a championship team, especially in playoff situations, is that someone steps up big and hits double their usual average, as both Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry did yesterday. Horry made the sort of contribution he’s been making for years, playing strong defense, going for loose balls, disrupting the outlet pass. If Horry and Bowen as well as Manu Ginobili are hitting from outside, the Pistons are in trouble. The Spurs already have three strong scoring options in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili, but when they add a fourth and fifth, how are you going to stop them?

The Pistons have a reputation as a strong defensive team, but their individual defense has not seemed that good to me, because they’re not really taking the Spurs out of their game. The Spurs have spread their offense so they have open lanes to the basket and they have open shots from outside. They’ve been patient, they’ve made crisp passes and yesterday they didn’t allow themselves to be forced into turnovers. When a team has both its inside and outside games working, and they’re shutting you down at the other end of the court, you’re in trouble.

The Pistons did a better job Sunday of creating movement and involving their big men in the offense, but they still aren’t doing two things I think they need to do in order to win: one, they have to make Tim Duncan guard Rasheed Wallace down low, and two, they have to get Ben Wallace going to the basket. On the latter count, I think maybe they aren’t because he hasn’t been a good foul shooter. But in order to have a chance against a team like San Antonio, you have to get their starters in foul trouble and make them sit down for a while. Otherwise, unless you’re hitting a fantastic percentage of your outside shots – and right now the Pistons aren’t hitting inside OR outside – you’re conceding the advantage to the other team.

Unless the Pistons can settle down and play a much more relaxed and confident game on their home court, and get a lot more points from both their front line and their bench, this is going to be a very short series.

I probably won’t see Tuesday night’s game, so I’ll be back at you later in the week.

-- Michael O'Daniel also contributed to this report


All of the Pistons need to be on the same page for Game 2.
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June 10 -- San Antonio made one adjustment early and it was a big one. Rasheed Wallace was doing a good job on Tim Duncan outside, so they broke Duncan into the pivot, and Ben Wallace couldn't stop him from behind.

You need to be in front of Duncan to deny him the ball and someone has to help out if he gets the ball. When he sets up outside, he opens up the lane for Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker. When the play breaks down, he goes to the hoop. I would try to keep him outside and make him shoot from there. I always liked it when one player tried to beat you by himself (although I think Duncan is too smart to do that).

Give Ginobli and Parker credit for being able to penetrate, but the Piston defenders did not have their feet set right. If you're playing someone to drive, you have to move your feet better. Frankly, I think Detroit should pick up the Spurs at half court. Make them beat you off the dribble. They might, but so be it. At least challenge them up high instead of letting them set up deeper.

The Spurs' front line played tough defense, but the Pistons played right into their hands because they did not post down. Detroit's big men are fast and mobile, but they didn't make any cuts, they didn't swing to the weakside, they didn't penetrate. They basically stood still while Detroit's guards worked the ball around the perimeter and took outside shots, one reason being that they were having trouble penetrating or they weren't making the shots when they did penetrate.

One thing that has gone overlooked in the praise for Ginobli's offensive production is what a job both he and Bruce Bowen did on Rip Hamilton defensively. Hamilton likes to come out from the baseline and look for his shot, and if he doesn't get it, pass off and cut for the hoop. The Spurs were able to deny him the cut; they harassed him and kept him off balance. I thought the referees got involved here and when Hamilton wasn't getting the calls he got upset. When you do little things that make a player uncomfortable, you can disrupt his rhythm and his team's rhythm. When someone is guarding you like this, you have to adjust -- head fake, make a different cut, go back door, run your man into a pick.

Bottom line, the Pistons just missed too many shots. They have to get back to involving everyone in the offense, keeping people moving, making cuts, camouflaging what they are doing. And Carlos Arroyo needs to learn not to dribble to the wings, where he will get double teamed and stop his dribble, but keep the ball in the middle of the court. And when he was double teamed, he wasn't having any success finding the open man.

Detroit is a smart and resilient team. I think they will make adjustments. But if they don't get more movement into their offense, especially from their big men, create shots for everyone, and make the shots when they have them, they're putting themselves at a serious disadvantage and they could go back home with a 2-0 deficit.

-- Michael O'Daniel also contributed to this report


The Big O won the 1971 NBA title with the Bucks.
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June 9 -- Last year, even though the Pistons were making their first trip to the finals in 14 years, I picked them to beat the Lakers because they were much more mobile and played a smarter, more aggressive, more varied brand of basketball.

This year the choice is not as clear-cut. San Antonio is much more evenly matched with Detroit. I’m particularly pleased to see two teams in The Finals that play good, solid fundamental basketball. Both emphasize rebounding – the Pistons are especially effective on the offensive boards – and play serious defense. The Pistons are the champs until they lose, but the Spurs have also been to The Finals three times recently and should rise to the occasion. The Spurs are a solid ball club and do not beat themselves.

The two teams are about equal in athleticism. Both have good speed and move well at both ends of the court. The Pistons beat Miami by putting single coverage on Shaq and letting him have his points inside while putting a lot of pressure on the other players. Tim Duncan presents much more of a challenge because he moves well and can score from both inside and outside. The bigger question will be what he does on defense. Will he guard Rasheed Wallace, who will take him outside, or will he play Ben Wallace. Whoever guards Rasheed, you know Rasheed will pull them away from the basket and open things up for Detroit’s guards.

Tempo is a key factor. The team that is able to get into a groove and stay there should prevail. Neither team needs to do anything fancy, just stay with what got them there. You may see a back door play added here and there, but that’s about it.

I don’t look for a lot of animosity, a lot of pushing and shoving, just good, hard, intelligent basketball. I hope both teams shoot well and create fast break opportunities so the games are exciting. Everybody talks about how individual players match up against each other, but that isn’t so much a factor until someone gets into foul trouble and both he and his team have to adjust.

A strong bench is obviously important and here again I think the two teams are pretty evenly matched, with Lindsey Hunter, Antonio McDyess and Elden Campbell for Detroit, Brent Barry, Robert Horry, and possibly Glenn Robinson – who hasn’t played that much thus far – for the Spurs.

Finally, we’ll see who handles adversity best and who makes the adjustments when necessary. That’s when a team’s character shows itself. The officiating will play a role, of course, but even when calls don’t go your way, you can’t let that take you out of your game. The Pistons could say they’ve already had enough adversity this year, thank you, but they’ve managed to hang tough regardless and I think they will continue to do so.

After the first game, we’ll have a much better indicator of how the rest of the series is going to play out. I’ll be back with more commentary as we go along.

-- Michael O'Daniel also contributed to this report