SAN ANTONIO, June 21 (Ticker)
The determined Detroit Pistons are in a
very familiar place. The San Antonio Spurs are in unknown
Led by the steadiness of guards Chauncey Billups
and some big plays by Rasheed Wallace
, the proud
Pistons evened the NBA Finals with a 95-86 victory over the
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With their trademark clutch play in the fourth quarter, the
defending champions ended a 10-game losing streak here and
forced the first Game 7 in the Finals in 11 years. As they
have throughout the postseason, they showed that they will have
to be knocked off the throne.
"We can fight any odds," said Wallace, who scored 16 points. "A
lot of people thought we were gonna be out tonight."
Committing just five turnovers, Detroit improved to a remarkable
5-0 in elimination games over the last two years. It has won a
pair of Game 7s during that stretch and seems unaffected by
"In Game 7, every shot is a big shot and every possession is
a big possession," Wallace said. "That's something that we're
used to - Game 7 last series and Game 7 last year. We
pretty much have a slight advantage in that."
"This is what it's all about," said Billups, relishing the
moment. "You're in the Finals, it's Game 7, two best teams
in the league. It don't get no better than this."
Hamilton scored 23 points and Billups added 21. They combined
for 19 points in the third quarter, when the Pistons took the
lead for good in what had been a seesaw game.
"Their guards really made it tough on us," Spurs coach
said. "The two of them really hurt us with their
"We're tough as nails," said Billups, who drained five
Toughness has not been a characteristic of the Spurs, who
squandered a great chance to wrap up their third title in seven
years and now have to be feeling some pressure.
"We'll see who wants it the most on Thursday," said Spurs guard
, who scored 15 points.
It will be the first Game 7 for both Popovich and superstar
"We play all year to have home court to have this opportunity,
so we're going to come in this building two days from now and do
a lot of clean-up stuff," Duncan said.
"It depends a lot on the character of the players, how you
respond under pressure," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili
scored 13 points and Antonio McDyess
Detroit, which made 8-of-17 3-pointers after sinking just
8-of-44 in the first five games.
Duncan had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Ginobili had 21 and 10
for the Spurs. But neither was able to make a momentum-turning
play down the stretch.
Detroit opened an 80-73 lead midway through the final period and
nursed it with its defense and three big baskets by Wallace,
the goat of Game 5.
A 3-pointer by Ginobili made it 82-81 with 4:48 to play before
Wallace answered with a baseline jumper. Duncan split two free
throws and Wallace drained a 3-pointer for an 87-82 bulge with
3:31 to go.
Duncan had a pair of hoops to again make it a one-point game.
But the Spurs did not score again as Ginobili - who had been
getting to the rim all game - failed to complete a pair of
reckless drives and missed two 3-pointers.
"I think I didn't make good decisions on offense," Ginobili
said. "That's what makes one team win and the other lose."
"We were a bit frenetic and probably trying to do some things
1-on-1 instead of with the group in an effort to win the
basketball game," Popovich said. "That's real dangerous against
a team as poised as Detroit."
Prince made a driving hook and Wallace put home a missed drive
by Billups for a 91-86 advantage with 1:25 remaining. Billups
added two free throws to seal it with 25 seconds left.
It was hard for the Pistons not to be motivated by their
surroundings. Tentative victory parade plans had been made for
Thursday, the day of Game 7. And SBC Center employees were
preparing Spurs championship shirts before the game.
And it was hard for the Spurs not to understand the importance
of closing out the series. They had yet to encounter a Game
7 in the Duncan era, while the Pistons had won one - on the
road, no less - just two weeks ago.
Wallace began atoning for his Game 5 gaffe with six points in
the first 6 1/2 minutes. His 3-pointer gave Detroit a 35-29
lead early in the second quarter.
"Sheed was big from the first play," Hamilton said. "He wanted
the ball. He made plays for us."
But the advantage disappeared in a flurry of fouls. Wallace was
hit with two and sat down and Billups and coach Larry Brown
received technicals. A free throw by Duncan gave San Antonio a
36-35 lead with 6:45 left.
"We can't get caught up in anything," Hamilton said. "Once we
called a timeout, everybody said what they had to say and and we
just said that we can't allow ourselves to give them free
Ginobili and Parker combined for 22 points in the first half,
which had seven ties and 18 lead changes and ended with the
Spurs holding a 47-46 lead.