-- As we inch closer to The NBA Finals, talk around the water cooler is heating up. Four teams are still alive in the 2005 Playoffs but only two can advance for a chance to play for a title. Here's a look at each series, and what the players -- and columnists -- are saying:
Western Conference Finals
Another day, another job. It was business as usual for the San Antonio Spurs, as they won for the second consecutive time on the Suns' home floor, 111-108, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.
Down five points after three periods, the Spurs used a 31-23 final quarter to grab the victory, including a 7-0 run in the last 2:42. The display was a repeat of what transpired in Game 1, in which San Antonio tallied 43 points in the fourth period.
Phoenix walked away disappointed after a second straight home loss.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/NBAE
"What the Spurs did is run down Phoenix in the final quarter. Again," wrote Johnny Ludden in the San Antonio Express-News. "In the two fourth quarters, the Spurs have outscored the Suns 74-55 while shooting a combined 71.8 percent. On Tuesday, the Spurs scored on 12 of their final 13 possessions. (Tim) Duncan deserves as much credit as anyone for the team's clutch-time play. Twenty-five of his 58 points have come in the two fourth quarters."
"It's as if the Spurs impose their will in the first and fourth quarters just to prove they can, allow the Suns to gain a false sense of momentum in the middle two quarters, then put them away in the final period," Mike Kahn wrote on Foxsports.com.
"Perhaps the biggest basket of the evening - surprise, surprise - belonged to Robert Horry, whose three-pointer from the right corner with two minutes 31 seconds to play gave the Spurs the lead for good at 102-100," wrote Jason Diamos in the New York Times.
"It was huge," San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said of Horry's three-pointer. "It's what he does. He's confident with it and he did it again."
While Horry's trey went in, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash's did not. Nash had an opportunity to send the game into overtime but his desperation three-pointer hit the front rim at the buzzer.
"I had a few seconds to get up the court and there was congestion," Nash said. "Bruce (Bowen) switched out on me. I had to lean away, I didn't have much more (time). I tried to get something to the rim see if it would get in. Didn't get a great look and couldn't get it to fall."
It was one of the few instances that things didn't go Nash's way. The NBA's Most Valuable Player recorded 29 points and 15 assists in the contest to become the only player in NBA history to record at least 25 points and 10 assists in four consecutive playoff games.
"We played pretty well tonight. I think if we play as well as we did tonight we got a great chance to win the next game," Nash said. "The last two games they have been phenomenal at making big shots in the fourth quarter and at some point you have just got to congratulate them and say you know, they are better than us tonight."
"Phoenix now faces a difficult situation -- having to beat San Antonio four out of five to advance to the finals," Steve Kerr wrote on Yahoo.com. "The good news is that Joe Johnson should come back for Game 3, which will help immensely. The Suns have been worn down by the Spurs' depth, and Johnson will provide Mike D'Antoni with another body as well as a versatile defender who can help guard San Antonio's dynamic backcourt.
"But the Spurs seemingly can play any style they want to these days. That's why they're in control of this series."
Eastern Conference Finals
The Heat's eight game winning streak in the playoffs came to a screeching halt Monday, with Detroit taking Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 90-81. The contest was played in Miami, meaning home teams are now 0-3 thus far in the conference finals.
Wallace's denials denied the Heat a victory in Game 1.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
"Everyone wondered if Shaquille O'Neal would play," Bob Wojnowski wrote in the Detroit News. "Everyone wondered how good Miami's rising star, Dwyane Wade, could really be. Did everyone forget the dominant force of these Eastern Conference Finals? It's Detroit's punishing defense."
The Heat were averaging 106.5 points per game in the postseason before meeting the Pistons, second only to Phoenix's 114.4. In Game 1, Detroit put the defensive clamps on the Southeast Division champs, limiting Dwyane Wade to 7-of-25 shooting and Miami's bench to 12 points.
"You've got to have somebody back there waiting because you've got to contain him every time he penetrates to the basket," said Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince of Wade. "Guys were ready to help and things like that. He never just really got a good rhythm, and then when he did have some open shots, we kind of rushed him a little bit."
Though O'Neal managed to score 20 points in his return from a thigh injury, Detroit held him to three shot attempts in the fourth quarter.
"My players were yelling at me," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "They said, 'Coach, let's go at him a little bit.' In the last couple of minutes, Ben got him to shoot it a little further out. I watched him. He's having a hard time jumping off of one leg. It's amazing that he could be as effective as he was without playing.
"I watched, he didn't have the lift especially turning to the middle, and then defensively, I saw him trying it was really hard for him to get out," he continued. "But really, Ben was phenomenal the second half defensively."
"Just get me the ball," O'Neal said in the Detroit News about his lack of shot attempts. "Get it in to me. Tired or not, bring it in to me. I should have had the ball more."
The Pistons' impressive road win may have swayed opinion as to who the true favorites are in this series.
"Quietly, while Miami, San Antonio and Phoenix received all the attention, the Pistons just kept winning," Marc Stein wrote on ESPN.com. "Even though Detroit was the defending champs, the Heat entered this series as the favorites. Now, the Heat are left regrouping while the champs' confidence just got stronger after causing their East rival to lose for the first time in nine contests in the playoffs. And this game was in Miami, too."
"We're still the underdogs," Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. "The majority of you guys have either Miami or San Antonio winning it all, but we still just go out there and play. We're just trying to prove that last year wasn't a fluke."
"I don't know that we got the same respect that other champions have gotten in this league, but we use that as motivation, that's why we always play with that chip on our shoulder," Chauncey Billups said. "Miami is getting that respect before this series started, and they should have because they really dominated our conference the entire season.
"They dominated, so they deserve everything that they have gotten, but we won the championship."