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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

NBA Finals boils down to 3 games

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The best-of-seven NBA Finals between the defending champion Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs has come down to this: a best-of-three showdown.

"It's a great series. This is what NBA basketball is all about and what the Finals are all about," Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups said. "It's tied up, 2-2. It's a three-game series now. First one to two [wins], so it's going to be a lot of fun."

The Pistons, who were down 0-2 in the series, look to go ahead tonight by winning for the third straight time at the Palace. They're riding a wave of momentum after thumping the Spurs 102-71 Thursday night when seven Pistons scored in double figures.

"We know what type of game we're in for going into Game 5 and we're going to have to be ready," said Pistons center Ben Wallace, who registered a double-double in Game 4 with 11 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. "They are going to bring their best game and we have to come out and match that effort to try to take it to the next level."

A week ago when the Spurs seemed totally in command of the series after winning the first two games in San Antonio it was Detroit searching for answers. The last two games the Spurs have been at a loss about how to deal with a Detroit team that seems locked in on a second straight NBA championship.

The Pistons have limited the Spurs to an average of 75 points in the last two games, which is 15 points less than they averaged in the first two games of the series.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich doesn't believe the Spurs are ready to panic, especially with a sixth and seventh game, if necessary, to be played in San Antonio. However, he's counting on at least seeing some improved play from the Spurs tonight in Game 5.

"I just think of it as two bad performances," Popovich said. "If it doesn't get better, we'll be in big trouble."

Spurs point guard Tony Parker admits what took place for the Spurs in the last two games can't take place in Game 5.

"Game 5 is definitely going to be a must-win and we definitely need to make some adjustments and try to compete," Parker said.

After the Pistons lost two on the road, they made some adjustments that now have the Spurs puzzled. The Spurs committed 18 turnovers in each of the last two games while the Pistons turned the ball over only 11 times in Game 3 and just four times in Game 4 when they became the Spurs' first Finals opponent to score 100 or more.

Detroit is also averaging 10.5 steals per game compared with 5.5 steals for San Antonio.

Spurs all-star forward Tim Duncan admits the Pistons have dictated the way the game has been played in the Palace.

"It's a very physical game," Duncan said. "Those guys throw a lot of bodies into you and each with their own little style. Some are physical, some are loose or whatever it may be."

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili has been a focal point of the Pistons' defensive plans and they have kept him well in check. After scoring 26 and 27 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively, Ginobili has been limited to 7 and 12 points in Games 3 and 4.

"Whoever is guarding him is just taking on that challenge of making him work a little harder to get those shots that he got at home when he was so dominant," Billups said. "He's a great player so you're not going to shut him down. He's so slippery with the ball - splitting the double teams - and he finishes so well that you're not going to shut him down.

"But if you contest all of his shots and at least make him play defense, I think we could have some success."

Ginobili believes a fast start in Game 5 is key for the Spurs.

"I think it's important for us to try and push the ball more, try to get a couple easy baskets," he said.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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