- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SAN ANTONIO — Moments after Detroit absorbed another shelling Sunday night to fall behind San Antonio 2-0 in the NBA Finals, Pistons coach Larry Brown was asked whether a trip back to the Palace of Auburn Hills would give his team a lift.

After seeing the dominance of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen against his charges, Brown wasn’t sure.

“Right now, the way they are playing and with the way they are executing, the contribution they are getting from a lot of people, they have just dominated two ballgames,” Brown said. “They have been tough to beat at home all year. I’m hopeful that we’ll be tough and our crowd will be as enthusiastic as them and maybe get some confidence back.”

It is not only the Spurs who are ganging up on the Pistons. History is joining in, too. Only twice — Boston against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969 and Portland against Philadelphia in 1977 — has a team lost the first two games in the finals and rebounded to win the championship.

Last year, when the Pistons won their first championship in 13 seasons, they returned home tied with Los Angeles 1-1 before winning the next three games at the Palace. But that team went home with momentum, something it lacks this year.

Ginobili has proved to be too much for the Pistons, averaging 26.5 points in two games. Ginobili has gotten to the basket at will, often against Tayshaun Prince, who entered the series touted as one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. From early in the fourth quarter of Game1 until the fourth quarter of Game2, Ginobili hit 15 of 16 shots.

When he wasn’t scoring, Ginobili was passing to open teammates, who sank long-distance jumpers while the Pistons blew layups.

Brown’s Pistons, however, seem more like a team in denial than a team that must win tonight to stay in the series.

“Ginobili’s not giving us problems,” reigning defensive player of the year Ben Wallace said. “We’re giving ourselves problems.”

Wallace is partially right.

The Pistons’ defense delivered a championship last season, but in Game 2 this year they allowed the Spurs to score 58 points in the first half — the most any team has scored in a half against them in the last two years. It is the Spurs who are “playing the right way,” as Brown so often says — or at least the way Brown wished his team was playing right now.

San Antonio held the Pistons to 40.2 percent shooting Sunday. The Pistons missed all six of their 3-point attempts, while the Spurs made 11 of 21 from behind the arc.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team must not get too confident and assume the Pistons will roll over.

“I don’t think we ever had a problem getting too excited about wins or too down about losses,” said Popovich, who stands two wins away from winning a third title. “I think that they have been very business-like for quite a few years now as far as playing the game and being able to live with whatever comes.”


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