Wednesday, June 08, 2005


NBA Finals Breakdown

The NBA finals matchup is just as I predicted it would be before the season even started: Detroit vs. San Antonio. Here's my thoughts on each of the matchups within the matchup.

One of the most intriguing matchups is at point guard. The Pistons' Chauncey Billups and the Spurs' Tony Parker had very similar regular-season numbers (16.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for Billups; 16.6, 3.7, and 6.1 for Parker). However, there is much more to the matchup than that. One aspect is Parker's inconstintency; despite a generally strong performance in the conference finals, his play has been erratic throughout the postseason. For this reason, I don't believe he matches up well against Billups, the most physical point guard in the league. Advantage Pistons.

The two teams' off guards also figure to lock horns in this series. Detroit's Richard "Rip" Hamilton made a name for himself during Detroit's 2004 title run, mainly because of the many clutch jumpers he drained in tough series against New Jersey and Indiana. On the other hand, Manu Ginobili is doing so as we speak, for a different reason: his slicing quickness and driving ability. In that way, he is similar to Dwyane Wade, who gave the Pistons so much trouble in the conference finals. Ginobili should be able to do the same. Advantage Spurs.

The teams' two small forwards, Tayshaun Prince and Bruce Bowen, are arguably the two best perimeter defenders in the NBA. The difference is that Detroit's Prince is skilled offensively, whereas San Antonio's Bowen is not. Despite his struggles against Miami, I am confident that Prince will break out in this series. Because of this, I give him the edge in this "matchup," although the two won't be guarding each other much, if at all. Advantage Pistons.

At power forward, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace and the Spurs' Tim Duncan go about succeeding in completely different ways. While Wallace often is hindered by his antics both on and off the court, the former including a bevy of technical fouls, Duncan is a quiet, lead-by-example superstar. As far as basketball goes, Duncan has the clear edge, especially if he is healthy, which he has not been for long stretches throughout the season. Even if he isn't, however, I'll still take the "big Fundamental" over the "Big Bum-damental" any day. Advantage Spurs.

"Big Nazr" doesn't have nearly as much of a ring to it as "Big Ben," does it? The answer to that question pretty much sums up the matchup between these two teams' centers, Ben Wallace and Nazr Mohammed. Although Mohammed has been a nice late-season pickup for San Antonio, there is a reason why the Pistons' Wallace is named the Defensive Player of The Year almost perennialy. He is a defensive stalwart, something that Detroit will need against the Spurs. Advantage Pistons.

The matchup between the two benches is perhaps the most lopsided one of all. While San Antonio could be described as deep, Detroit definitely could not. The Spurs' cast of reserves includes a serviceable center (Rasho Nesterovic), a three-point sharpshooter (Brent Barry), one of the greatest clutch shooters of all time (Robert Horry), and a former offensive star who can still knock down a jumper or two (Glenn Robinson). On the other hand, only three of the Pistons' benchwarmers ever get a chance to play: Lindsey Hunter, Antonio McDyess, and, as of late, Carlos Arroyo. Advantage Spurs.

The coaches responsible for leading both the Pistons and Spurs to the NBA finals are two of the best in the league. And though Detroit's Larry Brown is considered by many to be the best, I give the advantage to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich for one reason: he is more willing to experiment and make adjustments in order to come out on top. Brown is stubborn, as evidenced by the way he handled the Olympic team in Athens last summer. Advantage Spurs.

As you can see, the series shapes up to be a good one. The only question left is the most important one: who will win? Although the Pistons are, in my opinion, the best defensive team in the league, that's all they are: a walk-it-up, defensive squad that at times struggles to score points. The Spurs are just the opposite; they are able to adapt to any style, as they did in flat-out outscoring the Phoenix Suns, the NBA's highest-scoring team in a decade, in the conference finals. For that reason, I have to go with San Antonio.

THE PICK: Spurs in 7.
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