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NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
Everything changes, especially in sports. But usually, it doesn’t all change so much so fast as it did with the NBA’s 2004-05 season.
Two of the game’s biggest stars changed teams, as Shaquille O’Neal made the second big move of his career (going from the Lakers to the Heat) and Steve Nash entered a new fruitful period (swapping the Mavericks for the Suns). The league changed up its team divisions, adding the Northwest, Southeast and Southwest divisions and shuffling the squads within those parameters. And, while change was in the air already, why not throw an entirely new team into the league — the Charlotte Bobcats.
But, just like the old saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. That about summed up the Spurs once again, who edged the Pistons in a physically demanding and thrillingly epic Finals, which San Antonio grabbed in seven games.
After each dispatching a big, newly-changed favorite — the Spurs dropped the No. 1 seed Suns with freshly-minted league MVP Steve Nash, while the Pistons edged Shaq’s new No.1 seeded Heat squad — Detroit and San Antonio gave fans a Finals with a little of everything.
The series started with each team routing the other in back-to-back contests, as the Spurs went up 2-0 only to see the Pistons storm back to even it up. That’s when things got good.
Scoreless at the half, clutch-shooting legend Robert Horry turned in one of his trademark performances, scoring 21 points in the final 17 minutes of the Spurs’ 96-95 Game 5 win. Horry scored seven points in the final two minutes of regulation, and then hit the game-winning 3-pointer in OT off an inbounds pass with 5 seconds left. That final shot was originally intended for Manu Ginobili, but when Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace went all-in at the Argentinian, he kicked it back to Horry for the big bucket.
“The play was for me to take that shot, but then I saw Rasheed coming,” Ginobili said “My first option in those moments was Robert. He’s a winner. He’s been in that situation so many times. Everyone knows what he does.”
Horry knew just what to do … as usual.
“I saw Rasheed bite and said, ‘Oh, let me stay out here.’ ”
That would seem to be the dagger in the series, but the Pistons weren’t ready to lay down. Chauncey Billups tallied 23 points, six rebounds and six assists in Game 6 for a 95-86 win to help his Pistons even the series and force a Finals Game 7 for the first time in more than a decade.
“Not today. Not tonight. Not today. Not tonight,” Billups said as he walked into the locker room after the win.
Tomorrow, though, would be a different story. The Spurs surged back in the wild series, riding a dominant performance down the stretch from Tim Duncan to clinch the title. Duncan’s 25 points and 11 boards capped his Finals MVP performance for his third title in seven seasons.
“We just played a great team. I don’t know how the hell we did it, but I am thrilled,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the win.
Don’t go changing, Coach Pop.