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This seemed to be the season that a lot of the haters jumped on the “Spurs are boring” bandwagon, one that has always been flawed when one considers the super-fast and clever back court of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. It is no secret that NBA fans no longer care that much about great defense (as evidenced by the ratings of the 2005 NBA Finals), even though the 2005 NBA Finals between the Spurs and the Detroit Pistons was one of the grittiest, hardest played Finals in quite some time.
The Spurs once again posted an impressive regular season record, going 59-23, nabbing the second seed in the Western Conference while bulldozing their way yet again to the NBA Finals after dismissing the Denver Nuggets, Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder, for the kids out there), and Phoenix Suns.
With the “Big Three” continuing to do their thing, Bruce Bowen further establishing himself as one of the nastiest defenders in the league, and the team possessing a two-headed, fundamentally sound defensive center monster in Rasho Nesterovic and mid-season acquisition Nazr Mohammed, the Spurs were absolutely ready for the defending champion Pistons.
After winning the first two games of the series impressively, the Spurs got hammered, and I mean hammered in Games Three and Four in Detroit (a dejected Tim Duncan on the bench being consoled by Pop will never leave my mind). Where the Spurs got burned in the 04’ playoffs with the Derek Fisher shot, they finally got some luck thrown their way in Game Five, when Robert Horry came into the contest and completely shifted the momentum of the series. Thanks to an inexplicable defensive miscue where Rasheed Wallace doubled Manu Ginobili in the corner in the closing seconds of the game, this freed Horry up to knock down yet another clutch three-ball, giving the Spurs a 3-2 advantage in the series, which proved to be pivotal considering that the Pistons were able to force a Game Seven out of them.
The Spurs appeared to be in trouble in the third quarter in Game 7, as the Pistons started building on their lead and not giving up anything easy inside. However, thanks to a fierce performance by Manu Ginobili (sporting Samson-like locks and strength throughout that year) and a fourth quarter featuring strong defense (punctuated by a Bruce Bowen block on a Chauncey Billups three-point attempt in the closing minutes of the game), great passing (Duncan hitting both Bowen and Ginobili in the corners for crucial long balls), and an MVP-type performance from Duncan, the Spurs defeated the Pistons in seven games.
The NBA is a business, and ratings certainly are important to achieving a business’s goals. However, just because ratings were not that high for this series and NBA fans seemed to not care that much about who was victorious does not mean that it was not a terrific NBA Finals, and one that deserves a second view when one looks through different, more defensive-wise lenses.