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June 8, 2005

Spurs learn how to adapt, learn how to win

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
The two best teams in the NBA have made it to the Finals. The league should be happy, right?

Well, maybe not. If I'm NBA Commissioner David Stern, I'm definitely afraid that this series, which lacks a genuine charismatic superstar, will pull in UPN-type ratings. Sure, that's to be expected; these are the two best defensive squads in the league, and they are both very workmanlike on the court.

In a word, boring.

But that's where much of the analysis of San Antonio's play can end if you're trying to be honest about it. In the first three rounds of the Playoffs, the Spurs have played three different styles of basketball. And like a reliable character actor, they've played them all brilliantly.

In Round One, the Spurs muscled up and grinded out a five-game series win over a physical Denver team. San Antonio locked down Seattle's outside shooting and crippled them defensively in six games in the second round. And in the Western Finals, they were able to run and shoot with the highest scoring team in the league, the Phoenix Suns.

The Spurs know how to win every way possible, and they shouldn't catch amnesia before the Finals tip off tomorrow at the SBC Center in Texas.

Unlike the Pistons, who only put together one set of back-to-back wins against Miami, the Spurs had a chance to win all five games against Phoenix, and took four of them. This is problematic for Detroit; if their defense falters against the inside-out threat of Tim Duncan, Brent Barry and Nazr Mohamed (who has been solid), they will see a quick hook in this series.

Which takes me back to my opening statement about the league's worries that this series won't be telegenic. Those fears are probably going to come true. The Spurs can play like their opponents, only on a better level.

So if that holds form in the Finals, San Antonio will slow down play and lock down the Wallace brothers on the defensive end. Sure, no team is as good as the Spurs, but the two clubs that lost in the Conference Finals are more fun to watch.

But what will be worth watching is to see Tim Duncan's chance to solidify his ranking as the greatest power forward of all time. If he picks up his third title, you can add that to eight first team all-NBA selections before his 30th birthday. With the third ring, I can't think of a more complete and dominant power forward in the history of the NBA.

His skill in the low block makes up for the fact that the Spurs have lacked a dominant center for years, even the last few years of the David Robinson era. With just a good power forward and a lousy center like Rasho Nesterovic, the Spurs wouldn't have had as good a seed as they did in the West, and consequently, wouldn't be here now.

I would go as far as to say that any time the Spurs win their division and Duncan' is healthy, he has to be in the top three, at a bare minimum, in the MVP voting.

So where does that leave this series? Obviously, I think San Antonio will win this series. And I think that they'll do it in five games, six at maximum. I could see an inspired Detroit club stealing a Game Five in San Antonio to stave off elimination, but I really don't believe that the Pistons will leave Texas after Game Two with home court advantage.

The advantage that Detroit has over San Antonio is a real center in Ben Wallace. But that center is shorter than Duncan and not as capable offensively. The Spurs' Manu Ginobili has made The Leap in these Playoffs, and his rise is not to be ignored. He and Tony Parker make up some kind of scary backcourt.

The other Detroit Wallace, Rasheed, will have to play to his ceiling every night, because the Spurs sure will. And he is the best Piston on the floor; without a great line every night from him, Detroit might not even make it back to the Alamo for a Game Five.

Both teams are loaded with players who can create shots, but San Antonio's Tony Parker is much better than Chauncey Billups when it comes to opening up the floor for his teammates. Parker's ability to do such a thing was key in evening out Steve Nash of the Suns' assists in the Western Finals.

With Bruce Bowen, Ginobili, Duncan and Mohamed, the Spurs have a better corps of defensive stoppers, and a deeper bench. Those should be the keys to this series, and why the San Antonio Spurs will be the 2005 NBA Champions.

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  • I agree... on June 9, 2005 at 5:55 PM
    I have a feeling the Spurs will win, even though I want the Pistons to win so that Brown may stay.

    Its going to be boring though..I'd much rather watch Suns VS Heat than Spurs VS Pistons...
  • John on June 12, 2005 at 12:18 AM
    I'm sorry, but for the second time this year you have taken material from columnist Bill Simmons. This time it was his column titled “Defining the NBA Finals.”

    From Simmons: "They banged bodies with a physical Nuggets team in Round 1, handled Seattle's smallball gimmick in Round 2, then played run-and-gun with the Suns in Round 3. Can you remember another basketball team adapting to three different styles in three rounds like that? San Antonio is more malleable than Russell Crowe."

    Now, you: "In the first three rounds of the Playoffs, the Spurs have played three different styles of basketball. And like a reliable character actor, they've played them all brilliantly."

    Other parts of the columns are very similar in content, although nothing as clear as those quotes. I’m not saying that you did this on purpose; no doubt it was an accidental mistake after reading his column. However, I hope that you spend time to make sure your ideas are original in the future. I also hope the new editors of Silver Chips Online do not remove my postings like Vivek did.
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