Who can stop Manu?
Manu has driven past Tayshaun so relentlessly that Prince is barely in the picture.
SAN ANTONIO The 2005 Finals have been a tale of two stoppers.
However, only one of the stoppers is doing any stopping.
Entering the series, fans expected to see small forwards Tayshaun Prince and Bruce Bowen shut down and frustrate their opponents. Both had earned plaudits in the conference finals, with Prince keeping Miami's Dwyane Wade under wraps as much as possible while Bowen locked up Phoenix' Shawn Marion.
Bowen has done his part in the first two games. Matched up primarily against Richard Hamilton, Bowen has slammed the door on his counterpart.
Hamilton has shot just 12-for-36 in the first two games and has managed only six foul shots, with his 14.0 points per game a far cry from the 23.8 he put up in the Miami series. The normally soft-spoken Rip was so frustrated by the end of Game 2 that he was screaming at referee Danny Crawford picking up a T in the process.
As for Prince ... he's having a rougher time of things. Tayshaun's main assignment has been to contain San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, and he's done it about as well as oxygen contains fire. Ginobili is the series MVP right now, with the crafty lefty requiring just eight official FG attempts to net 27 points in Game 2. Amazingly, he has 53 points in the series but has missed only eight FG tries.
Worst of all, Ginobili has owned the fourth quarter in both contests despite Prince's best efforts.
Sunday night the Pistons had closed San Antonio's lead to 81-73 when Manu struck. First, with no place to go and the shot clock running out, he drew a bump from Prince for a foul to keep the possession alive as crucial a play as there could have been in such a lopsided game.
Then, he got the ball on the restart and blew by Prince with a rare right-handed drive, drawing the fifth foul on Rasheed Wallace in the process. A minute later, after a daring steal on a post pass to Tayshaun, he beat Prince again, this time with the left, and then kicked out to Bruce Bowen for a 3-pointer. 88-73 Spurs. Ballgame.
For good measure, he added a few insurance free throws in the following minute to pad the lead. Overall, in a three-minute span Ginobili scored or assisted on 11 of 13 San Antonio points.
Hamilton said Bowen uses "110 percent" of his energy on defense. But Bowen outscored Hamilton 15-14 on Sunday.
If the Pistons are going to make things closer in the final two games er, the rest of this series they'll need Prince to match Bowen's efforts in the stopping department. Certainly, the change of scenery for Game 3 might help, since Ginobili seemed to get the benefit of the doubt from the zebras in several drives in Game 2.
But the refs swallowed their whistles in Game 1 and Manu burned Prince just as badly. As the series moves to Detroit, Prince or Richard Hamilton, or Lindsey Hunter, or Darko Milicic, or somebody has to get Ginobili under control.
Otherwise, the Pistons will have to turn in their title belts by this weekend.
For Detroit, D has stood less for D-fense than for D-feated,
D-moralized and D-jected, as their long Game 2 faces show.
Three reasons the Pistons are down 0-2:
(1) San Antonio has been able to take the Pistons totally out of their offense.
Whenever a team plays against a great defense, and both these teams possess excellent defenses, a team needs tremendous ball and body movement -- in other words, a great sense of urgency and teamwork. That keeps a defense on its heels. Instead, the Spurs have done incredible job dominating the Pistons' offense.
(2) The Pistons' guard play has been a disappointment, especially for a tandem often called the best backcourt in the game.
The Spurs have imposed their will and their skill defensively at the guard position. As good as they are, the Pistons' guards have to realize they are not good enough to overpower the Spurs or beat them individually. To win they have to play like the Spurs and play for one another and as a team.
(3) The Pistons have had trouble maintaining focus.
In order for the Pistons to recover they are going to have to do a better job of keeping their emotions in check. They can ill afford to give up points and momentum with silly technical fouls, such as tonight's three by Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Larry Brown. Tonight not only did they give the Spurs precious points, but their actions also got the crowd back involved in the game at a point when the Pistons should've been concentrating on making a run to get back in this game.
Greg Anthony, from the SBC Center in San Antonio
Martin (Orlando): Bill, which would be more impressive, the Spurs winning three titles in seven years or the Pistons winning back-to-back?
Bill Walton: My sense would be the Pistons. The Spurs had David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Those are two of the top 20 players in the history of basketball. The Pistons, this is a team that has players that other teams might not have wanted. Rasheed has been on how many teams? Billups six different teams. Hamilton traded. McDyess given away. Prince passed on by so many teams in the draft. What they have done in terms of building careers for themselves, but coming together as a team, this is a special squad.
Shawn (Lincoln, NE): You have to love Manu's hustle. However, why do the refs refuse to ever call a charge on the guy? He flies around out of control and is never called. He has done the same banging into people all playoffs, especially against Denver.
Bill Walton: He is not guilty of fouls on a general basis. He is moving laterally, around players. He is tremendous. One of the great skills in all of competitive sport where there is contact is your ability to convince the referees (not by showing them up) to see the game through your eyes. Shaq has done that. Jordan did that. That comes with how you play, your respect for the game, your opponent and the refs, etc.
Bill Walton, in San Antonio | Full chat transcript
Play of the Day
Quote of the Night
Chris Ramsay, in San Antonio
Ho hum, another spectacular steal and save for Manu. (See the "Play of the Day" above for details on this fourth-quarter sequence.)
The Spurs beat the Pistons Sunday 97-76 after winning Game 1 by a 84-69 score.
Only one other team has won Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals each by at least 15 points: In 1951 the Rochester Royals took the first game of the series from the Knicks by 27 points and won the second by 15.
Two other teams have won consecutive Finals games by 15 points. In 1977 the Trail Blazers won Games 3 and 4 from the 76ers by 22 and 32 points. The Celtics won Game 7 in 1960 by 19 points and Game 1 in 1961 by 34 points, both over the St. Louis Hawks.
Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
Some cool things about games at the SBC Center:
Chris Ramsay, in San Antonio
In Game 2, how did the Detroit Pistons make 15 more 2-point field goals than the San Antonio Spurs and still lose by 21 points?
By setting a very unwelcome record, that's how.
The Pistons gave up 33 more points from behind the arc than they scored: The Spurs nailed 11 of 24 3-pointers while the Pistons were 0-of-6.
That gave the Pistons a 3-pointer deficit which wiped out their 2-pointer advantage and then some. Add in the 18-point margin for the Spurs at the free-throw stripe and you have blackjack, 21, for a final margin in the Pistons' 97-76 loss.
The Pistons need two wins in Detroit to get the series back to San Antonio for Game 6.
But even so, Detroit has now lost 10 straight at San Antonio, counting regular-season and postseason games.
Which means the Pistons' predicament is this: Either win three straight in Detroit, or be forced to win two straight in a city which they haven't won a single game since January 1997.