Boring? Not this game

2005 NBA Finals, Game 5: Spurs 96, Pistons 95 (OT)

Originally Published: December 14, 2009
Page 2

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Robert HorryNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

It's probably the most misremembered series of all time. The Pistons and Spurs battled for seven games in 2005, with the overtime thriller in Game 5 serving as the crucial game, yet all anyone could talk about afterward was what a dull series it was.

Certainly it had something to do with the fact it was Detroit and San Antonio instead of New York and L.A. It also had much to do with two defensive teams facing off when the NBA's scoring already stood at low ebb.

Whatever the cause, a lot of folks ignored it -- we have TV ratings to prove it. But Game 5 of that series produced as many career-defining moments as any in recent memory.

Obviously, there was Big Shot Bob cementing his legacy as one of the game's great clutch performers: Robert Horry scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer when Rasheed Wallace inexplicably left him to double-team Manu Ginobili.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg from that damp Sunday evening in suburban Detroit.

We saw Chauncey Billups certify his own big-game credentials with a 34-point effort in a losing effort, one the Spurs quelled only by switching defensive ace Bruce Bowen to Billups late in the game.

We saw Bowen, obviously, secure his own rep as one of the all-time defensive stoppers by stopping the tap on Billups long enough for the Spurs to pull out Game 5. He saw more extended duty on Billups in the deciding seventh game with the same result, holding him to a series-low 13 points.

We saw the first wisps of stardom from second-year wingman Ginobili, whose thigh bruise in Game 3 temporarily derailed the Spurs after he had dominated the first two games. After two off days, he felt spry enough by Game 5 to play 44 minutes, including eight at point guard in relief of Tony Parker; score 15 points; and make the OT pass to Horry for one of his game-high nine assists.

Included was perhaps my favorite play of the series, partly because it developed right in front of my perch behind the basket -- an impossible lefty layup from the right side, driving straight in from the top, that Ginobili somehow lofted in over Wallace's outstretched arm and off the board for two.

We saw Larry Brown cement his legacy as the league's perennial nomad, working to secure a position as Cleveland's GM (one that, coincidentally, went to San Antonio exec Danny Ferry) even as his charges prepared for a rubber match in the NBA Finals. Pistons fans will always wonder whether their team's preparation might have been just one play better had the coach's wandering eye not been a distraction, and, if so, whether they might have celebrated a second straight championship that spring.

And speaking of boring, we saw about the most frailty we'll ever see from monotonously outstanding Tim Duncan that night. He shot 4-of-11 from the line and missed a potential game-winning putback at the end of regulation, necessitating Horry's theatrics. Although he won the third of his three Finals MVP trophies, Duncan shot only 41.9 percent for the series.

In short, we saw a lot of memorable, career-defining moments for such an allegedly boring series. Don't let the low scores and lack of marquee teams fool you -- it was a classic seven-game series, and Game 5 was the best of the seven.
--John Hollinger

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