Spurs 97, Pistons 76

SAN ANTONIO (AP)—By the fourth quarter, Rasheed Wallace was reduced to the emptiest of threats.

When the Spurs absently took practice shots after the whistle blew, he leaped and ferociously swatted them away. If only the Detroit Pistons had showed a little of that bravado when the ball was in play.

The defending champions just don’t scare the Spurs, and it’s showing in an increasingly one-sided NBA Finals. With smooth offensive execution and a rough-edged defensive toughness, San Antonio rolled to a 97-76 victory in Game 2 on Sunday night.

The Pistons arrived in San Antonio wearing the glitzy, wrestling-style title belts created by Wallace. They left with two embarrassing losses to a former champion playing with all the confidence and flair Detroit showed while upsetting the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.

Manu Ginobili scored 27 points and hit four of San Antonio’s 11 3-pointers, while Tim Duncan added 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Spurs led by 23 in the third quarter, briefly struggled in the fourth and calmly rolled to a series lead that’s been all but insurmountable in league history.

“Every time we made a run, every time we showed we were trying to get back into the game, they made a huge play,” said Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, held to 13 points. “When you get into a groove like that, it seems like you get all of those kinds of little breaks. We’ll be happy to get back to Detroit.”

Though the Pistons cut the Spurs’ lead to eight points midway through the fourth quarter, they never seemed in danger. Their execution was too fluid, their shooting too sharp and their home fans too vocal.

Ginobili hit another series of big shots to put it away, while Duncan, Tony Parker and even Bruce Bowen made key contributions. The Spurs held Detroit without a 3-pointer, and they went 28-of-34 on free throws, compared to Detroit’s 10-for-16.

That’s the San Antonio way: While their opponents boil over in frustration, the Spurs calmly execute a style of play that might not decorate highlight reels, but could lead to a second championship in three seasons.

“We usually don’t get much credit since I’m here,” said Ginobili, who also had seven assists. “We know how we play, how good we are. We’ve just got to stay humble. If people don’t give us credit, we just don’t care. We have to keep working really hard.”

If necessary, the next three games in the best-of-seven series will be played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, starting with Game 3 on Tuesday night. But only two teams have rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the finals—none since the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977.

Detroit coach Larry Brown could only marvel at the Spurs’ offensive execution. Moving the ball along the perimeter with precision, they passed their way to countless open shots while leaving behind panting defenders.

“Every extra pass that needed to be made, they made,” Brown said. “They set great screens. They got the ball in positions on the floor where they really hurt us. I didn’t think in the first half we really challenged them. It was almost like they were scripting plays.”

San Antonio went 11-for-24 on 3-pointers, compared to Detroit’s 0-for-6 performance. Ginobili and defensive specialist Bowen hit four apiece, and Robert Horry added two to tie Michael Jordan’s career record for 3s in the finals.

Meanwhile, the Pistons often were terrible with the ball. Leading scorer Richard Hamilton went 5-for-15 while getting hounded by Bowen again, and Tayshaun Prince scored just three points in 33 minutes. Wallace had 11 points while battling foul trouble, leaving reserve Antonio McDyess to lead the team with 15 points.

That frustration boiled into Wallace’s phantom blocked shots, as well as technical fouls on Hamilton, Billups and Brown in the second half.

“They had a poor night shooting,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I think we played pretty good D, but they also missed some shots. I don’t think anything is easy. Everybody is out there working very hard. It’s very physical. Bodies are knocking.”

And the Spurs have been tougher in every way. Ben Wallace, the NBA’s top defensive player in three of the last four seasons, made little impact on his second straight game, grabbing eight rebounds but making few noteworthy defensive plays.

As he left the SBC Center to board the Pistons’ flight back home to Michigan, he vented a bit of the frustration his teammates feel.

“We didn’t play any defense,” Wallace said. “That’s my final question. I’m done.”

Notes

Horry appeared in his 193rd playoff game, tying Karl Malone and Danny Ainge for third place in league history. … In 13 finals games during three trips to the NBA’s championship round, the Spurs have never allowed more than 90 points in a game. … Among the signs in the San Antonio crowd: “Keep your belts. We’ll take the rings.” … Detroit has lost 10 straight in San Antonio.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Detroit
R. Wallace R. Wallace
5-12,  11 Pts
8 Rebs, 4 Assists
 San Antonio
M. Ginobili M. Ginobili
6-8,  27 Pts
3 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists