By Eric Neel
Page 2

All right then. Now we're talking.

For four games we got pretty much nothing. And then … boom! Fifty-three minutes of basketball goodness, and just like that, there's a series going on. Who knew?

Before the tip Sunday night, I was thinking about draft night, and looking ahead to good times with "Joe Barry Bogut" and "Bogut Country" jokes. After the final buzzer Sunday night, all I could think is: Please, baby please, let this thing go seven.

Robert Horry
Robert Horry's 3-point dagger was huge, but so was this dunk.

Let me see Stones Horry take another big 3 with the clock winding down, and this time with the trophy on the line. I don't even care if he makes it. More than the bucket or the miss, I want to see the willingness, the thirst for it, a time or two again. And just as much as the outcome, I want to see the crowd – on the floor, on the bench, and in the stands – hang there in the air with the shot, some full of hope and wonder, some full of fear and loathing.

And while we're on the subject of Horry, let's talk a bit about that crazy "I'm Batman" dunk he pulled in the fourth. Just a tremendous shot – in a way, more important than the game-winning 3, because it brings the Spurs back on line. Remember, in Game 1, Manu Ginobili does his little Jordanesque wrist-flick dunk that says, "we're toying with you, we fear nothing," but then they get smacked around a bit in Games 3 and 4 and they shrink. And there they are late in Game 5, down four points, looking like they might settle for hanging tough without really being tough, until Horry brings that hammer from outer space, and bing! They're back, saying, "I'm telling you, we fear nothing." Wild bravado in a moment thick with consequence … beautiful, like Sugar Ray going windmill on Duran.

So let this thing go seven.

Let me see Tim Duncan, standing in that pigeon-toed stance, with his fingers twitching and his wrists shaking ever so slightly, take some more crunch-time free throws. Let me ask, and keep asking, just because someone has to: Is this some kind of strange show of solidarity with Shaq he's working? Is it something he'll get over? Great as he is, is he becoming a late-game liability? Are we on the verge of the Hack-a-Dunc?

Let's find out. Let it go seven.

Because that's two more games with Ben's hair.

Because the longer we keep Larry out of LeBron's hair the better it is for everyone involved.

Because Tayshaun was showing signs late in Game 5, with little syncopated baseline floaters and mid-lane rainbows, that maybe there's a bust-out still to come.

Because Chauncey's earned that much. And because if you're like a lot of folks, even though he already has a series MVP in his back pocket, you're just now getting to appreciate how good he is, and it'd be a shame to get only one more shot at watching him play.

Besides, if it goes seven, maybe Los Super Seven play the national anthem. Or maybe Lyle Lovett comes in off the ranch and, sort of magnanimously, but mostly mockingly, sings "That's Right, You're Not From Texas" to Kid Rock during halftime festivities.

Maybe Pop and LB stop playing out this tired mutual-respect-and-undying-admiration bit and throw down over a charge-block call in the heat of a third-quarter run.

And maybe we get to see the return of Manu's leg at full strength, too. He's not saying so, but the leg has got to be bothering him (remember the doc used the word "contusion" instead of "bruise" – a three-alarm word, a "Miss Clavell turned on her light and said, 'Something is not right!'" word). He's not going to the hole with the same quick confidence, he's not cornering around picks, and he's not swerving in and through double-teams the way he did in the first two games. (Is it a swerve he does, or is it a stumble? Can we call it a swervle? A swumble?) We can talk all we want about how the Pistons picked up the intensity in the third and fourth games – and they did. But Manu at 80 percent, or whatever he is, is a big part of what's made it hard for San Antonio to match them thus far.

Chauncey Billups
Two more chances to see Chauncey Billups? Yeah, we want that, too.

So I want seven.

I want more Hubie at the mic, appreciating the little things like the fan he is, saying, "Tough catch, great spin move, and nice release by Duncan," where someone else might just have settled for "Duncan scores."

I want more hoops and less labor negotiation.

I want more conspiracy talk, from Larry, from SG, from Jeff Van Gundy. I want the subject on the table. I want a Game 6 halftime special that goes over the Lakers-Kings 2002 game film frame-by-frame. I want David Stern issuing a half-hearted pre-game vote of confidence for Dick Bavetta.

I want more unpredictability. The Spurs almost never lose on their home floor, and they've beaten the Pistons there something like 413 times in a row. After two games, we were all sure it would be San Antonio in a walk, and after two more, most of us were certain Detroit had taken control, and after Sunday night you can't find anyone who thinks the Pistons have a legit shot to win it. Getting to Game 7 would tweak this series and the conventional wisdom about it one more time, and wouldn't that be enough, in itself, to root for?

And lastly, and maybe most importantly, I want seven because I have a dream, and it goes like this: Seventh game, seven overtimes, 132 personal fouls, and just two men left standing. That's right: Darko and Rasho for all the marbles.

You with me?

I thought you would be.

It'll be great. You, me and Chris Washbogut, all camped in front of the TV for two more games.

Eric Neel is a Page 2 columnist



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