- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2005

SAN ANTONIO — Don’t be fooled by the offensive outburst provided by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals, when they averaged 108.2 points a game and ran past the league’s most potent offensive team this season to reach the NBA Finals.

As exciting as it was — and as revealing that the typically plodding Spurs could play that way — it took San Antonio out of its comfort zone.

What they prefer, no matter how boring it appears, is the bump-and-grind tempo that produced an ugly but efficient 84-69 rout of the Detroit Pistons in Thursday’s Game1. Game2 will be played tomorrow night.

“In the last series with Phoenix, we were a little uncomfortable early at being in the 100s and thought it would come back and kind of bite us, but it didn’t,” said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who punished the Pistons in Game1 with 24 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks. “This series it’s a lot more comfortable for us. That’s where we want to be. We want to be in the 80s and 90s where we can really control the game.”

The Spurs threw a curveball at the Suns in the conference finals when they raced by them in five games, beating them at their own game. As a result of their swift victory, they were able to get eight days’ rest before facing the Pistons in Game1 of the Finals.

During the time off, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich wondered what type of effort his team would produce. When the Spurs fell behind 17-4 early, it was clear there was some rust on their game.

Nonetheless, facing the Pistons, a team that likes bumping, grinding and staunch defense as much as they do, the Spurs are much more comfortable.

“Detroit plays a little bit like us,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “They play defense first, take care of the ball. That is more our game. We made a lot of adjustments against Phoenix, so it wasn’t as easy as it looked. But now we’re going to play defense and were going to go out and take our time in the offense, get the ball inside to Timmy. I think that is what good teams do.”

That is what the Spurs did against the Pistons, who uncharacteristically seemed to lose their composure as San Antonio whittled away its early lead and rode a dominant 15-point fourth quarter by Manu Ginobili to victory.

While the game provided little in the form of offensive fireworks, the Spurs statistical superiority was clearly evident. San Antonio out-rebounded the Pistons 49-35. And while the Spurs’ 43 percent shooting percentage wasn’t spectacular, it dwarfed the Pistons’ 37 percent.

The 155 combined points approached the all-time Finals low of 145 by Syracuse and Fort Wayne in 1955, the first season of the shot clock. But the Spurs find it nice to know they can run if they have to.

“It’s worked to our advantage so far,” Duncan said. “We understand that we can be explosive when we have to. But we’re comfortable with playing the way we have for most of the season.”

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