PLAYOFF SERIES: NBA Finals; Spurs lead 1-0.
Looking to recover from a dismal conclusion to the series opener, the Pistons hope the Wallaces can step up as they try to head home with the NBA Finals tied at one game apiece.
Detroit got off to a good start in Game 1, with Rasheed Wallace making his first three shots as his team got out to a 19-7 lead late in the first quarter. However, the volatile forward was a non-factor on the offensive end after that, attempting just three more shots and missing them all as he finished with six points—less than half his playoff average.
Ben Wallace took just five shots and contributed only five points, though offense is not his forte. Defense and rebounding is, and he was not very effective in either department. He had just seven rebounds and Tim Duncan, his main focus at the defensive end, finished with 24 points and 17 boards.
More costly to the Pistons was how Ben Wallace lost his composure. He was bowled over by Manu Ginobili but was called for the foul, and he reacted by ripping off his headband in disgust and being called for a technical foul. Ginobili made the free throw to begin a decisive 19-4 run and San Antonio went on for an 84-69 victory.
“We got outworked all night. That’s it. No other comments,” Ben Wallace said after his team was outscored 49-32 in the second half.
The Pistons fell to 6-7 this postseason when Rasheed Wallace is held to 15 points or less. They are 6-0 when he scores more than 15.
“That’s a problem,” said guard Chauncey Billups, who led Detroit with 25 points. “He needs to be aggressive for us to win. We know he’s going to be there defensively, and he’s going to be our emotional leader out there, but we need him to score.”
That wasn’t a problem for Ginobili in Game 1. The All-Star guard shot 9-for-10 in the second half and finished with a game-high 26 points, 15 in the fourth quarter.
Ginobili’s 22.0 points per game during the playoffs is six better than his regular-season average.
“I think the consistency he shows,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “is there every night. It’s not once in a while, but that hellbent-for-leather sort of attitude, the willingness to take big shots, the willingness to do what it takes to win and to do it at the highest possible level of intensity, is there every single minute he steps on the court.”
Point guard Tony Parker added 15 points as San Antonio got off to a good start in its attempt to win a third championship in as many NBA Finals appearances. The Spurs won it all in 1999 and 2003.
Despite the performances of Ginobili, Duncan and Billups, Game 1 was mostly about defense, just as many expect this series to be. San Antonio and Detroit were first and second in the NBA, respectively, in scoring defense during the regular season.
The Pistons made 12 steals, blocked 10 shots and forced 16 turnovers on Thursday. San Antonio had three steals and eight blocks, but rebounded and shot the ball significantly better.
The Spurs had a 49-35 edge on the boards, shot 43 percent from the field and made four 3-pointers. The Pistons shot 37.7 percent from the floor and 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“We knew it was going to be like this; these guys are a heck of a defensive squad,” Duncan said. “That’s what you saw in that first half. I think we all started out with a little bit of jitters … I missed a dunk and stuff like that. Just had to have the game start coming to me. Once we started going there, everybody got comfortable and I think we got through it.”
Pistons leading scorer Richard Hamilton never got comfortable, often guarded by the pesky Bruce Bowen. Hamilton made 7-of-21 from the field for 14 points, just the second time in 19 postseason games he’s failed to reach 20.
“It’s not like we’re going up against a team that doesn’t defend,” Bowen said. “And it’s funny, because it’s like us playing ourselves, because we have such similar styles.”
Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace likely need to improve in Game 2 if Detroit wants to leave the SBC Center with a split, as well as its first win at San Antonio in more than eight years. The Pistons have lost eight straight there since Jan. 19, 1997.
Though the series shifts to Detroit on Tuesday and the Pistons would host the next three games, assuming San Antonio doesn’t sweep, they have never won a playoff series after losing the first two games, going 0-for-12.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Pistons - 2nd seed, Eastern Conference; beat Philadelphia 76ers 4-1, first round; beat Indiana Pacers 4-2, conference semifinals; beat Miami Heat 4-3, conference finals. Spurs - 2nd seed, Western Conference; beat Denver Nuggets 4-1, first round; beat Seattle SuperSonics 4-2, conference semifinals; beat Phoenix Suns 4-1, conference finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 20.9 ppg; Ben Wallace, 11.4 rpg; Billups, 6.5 apg. Spurs - Duncan, 24.8 ppg and 12.0 rpg; Parker, 4.6 apg.