The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bring on the Pistons!!!

We're hours before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, so let's take a look at the series.

Actually, before we do that, let's take a step back and admire the Tim Duncan era. In his eight professional years, the Spurs have lost to either won the NBA title (2x), lost to the eventual champs (2x), or lost to the NBA Finals runner-up (2x) in six of his seven complete seasons. The only season where this didn't happen? '99-00, when he was injured and did not play in the playoffs. This, his eight season, will either produce a third title or will add a third notch to the 'lost to the eventual champs' bar.

Can some sports buff run the numbers of any of the 50 greatest players and see how this compares? And at what point and time does Tim finally get the recognition he deserves and join the hallowed ranks of Larry Legend, Magic, and Michael? Tim has 3-4 years left in his prime, and another 3 or so of decreased production that we saw out of Shaq this year and will see out of him over the next couple of years. If we win this year, it is entirely possible that Tim could finish his career with four or five titles. That is amazing. Back to the series...

I say Spurs in 6. I won't be surprised if it goes seven, and I won't be surprised (disappointed yes, surprised no) if the Pistons win in seven. But I think that's the only combination in which the Pistons win.

The convential wisdom is that the Spurs are the favorites. I can't argue with that. The Pistons have done only enough to get by this year. Think about it, an injured Shaq for a seven-game series and an injured Dwyane Wade for the last 2 1/2 games, and the Pistons barely close out the Heat in seven. A Pacers team with Reggier Miller on his last legs, an injured Jermaine O'Neal and Jamal Tinsley, and a suspended Ron Artest took them to six games. If Dwyane Wade isn't injured in game 5, the Pistons might not have even gotten to a game 7. But they do match-up incredibly well against San Antonio, and this is no fluke team- this the third straight year the Pistons have reached at least the Eastern Conference Finals.

'Sheed will play Tim, Prince will guard Gino, Bowen will chase Rip, Billups will try to muscle Parker while Parker will try and run by Chauncy. The Spurs will give one game away because of turnovers or free throws or a scoring drought. The Pistons will beat the Spurs once, maybe twice. Tony's production will drop off after game 3, Tim and Manu will shoulder the weight after that, and Big Shot Bob will make a few timely shots.

The X-Factor won't be any one specific player or coach on either team, it'll be the success of San Antonio's transition offense. If Detroit gets back on D and San Antonio gets frustrated and stops pushing the ball up, then Detroit stops a key portion of San Antonio's offense. Make no mistake, both can play slowball, but San Antonio has a distinct advantage with Tony, Gino, and everyone else who runs. If they do not push this advantage, then a good chunk of why the Spurs are the favorites fades.

The biggest question the Pistons have to answer is, which player turns into the go to guy in games 4-7? Billups did it last year, can he do it again? Their top star, Ben Wallace, doesn't have the offensive repertoire to get it done. 'Sheed showed in Portland that he doesn't have 'it' either. Can Rip, a jump shooter, do it? Or does Prince take the leap? We don't have to worry about that here. What we do have to worry about is SA coming home from Detroit with a 3-2 lead. If we're a game away from closing out the series by then, it is going to be awfully hard to win two straight games against the defending champs when they're trying to close out the series.

Whatever happens, this will be the best NBA Finals since the '98 Bulls-Jazz II series. This also might be the best finals that I've ever watched (the first one I remember is the '89 Lakers-Pistons series). Let's see if anyone watches it with us.