Updated: June 23, 2005, 1:33 PM ET

DAILY DIME: SPECIAL EDITION
NBA Finals, Game 7: DET-SA

We asked seven writers what would happen in Game 7:

Prediction: San Antonio

It has to be disconcerting for the Spurs to know that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and pretty much the whole team has never played in a Game 7 of any kind.

It has to be unsettling to hear an old nemesis like Phil Jackson tell the PTI guys that "the Spurs have shown some real apple-swallowin' at the end of the game."

It has to be downright horrifying to hear Robert Horry – Big Shot Rob himself – admit that he really doesn't like Game 7s ... even though Horry's teams have won their last five Game 7s.

Well, guess what?

I'm ignoring all those warnings and the undeniable fact that the Detroit Pistons are the NBA's resiliency champs. I'm sticking with my original championship pick. Spurs to win the series.

This has been a Finals that has fooled us at almost every turn. The teams split four blowouts dominated by the home team, after which Horry stole Game 5 on the road, after which Detroit defied the conventional wisdom that told us the Pistons could never recover from such a blow.

Thus the Pistons, even as the visitors, are now the favorites to become the first team in Finals history to win Game 6 and Game 7 on the road. They're widely seen as the tougher team and the looser team, which sounds like a magic combination.

Can't help it, though. I picked the Spurs in six going in, and I'm picking Duncan, Ginobili and Horry to respond to the pressure. It would be only fitting for these Finals to finish off the season with one more surprise.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com



Prediction: Detroit

Once again, the Pistons will do the supposedly impossible by winning Game 7 and their second straight championship. Look for them to become the first team to take Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals on the road for the title.

While the Pistons relish pressure, the Spurs run from it at full speed. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have never played in a Game 7. The pressure in this game is all on San Antonio. It gets no greater than playing Game 7 in your house after leading 2-0 and 3-2.
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine



Prediction: San Antonio

I'm conflicted. On one hand, you have San Antonio, which was the best team in the league all season and in the first three rounds of the playoffs. On the other, you have Detroit, which has been the better team in the Finals.

Similarly, though Tim Duncan is the best player on either team, Chauncey Billups has been the best player in this series.

Finally, the home team in Game 7 has a huge advantage historically, but the Pistons have an equally formidable record in elimination games.

Based on those contradictions, it's hard to make a convincing case either way.

But if forced to choose, I'll take San Antonio. The trends that favor them have been built up over scores of games, while the trends favoring Detroit are the result of only five or six.

When in doubt, I'll go with the trend that has more history backing it up. But "in doubt" is the part that best describes my feelings here.
John Hollinger, ESPN Insider



Prediction: San Antonio

It's about as close to a push as you can get, I think. Rational, convincing arguments to be made in both directions.

I'm going with the Spurs, but it isn't a prediction as much as a hunch (all that's left of a long-held belief at this point).

As to the why, I'll offer two things, neither of which is home court:

1. I think it's very possible Ginobili has been less than 100 percent for these last four games, and I'm guessing he's due to come back at something close to full strength in this one.

2. The Pistons are more susceptible to a genuine cold streak than the Spurs are, and there's just no way they compensate for it with 24 points from 3 again in this one.

But I'm very prepared to be wrong; we all have been every step of the way in this series.
Eric Neel, ESPN.com



Prediction: Detroit

Everyone keeps asking me what my prediction is, and it hasn't changed from before the series. I picked the Pistons to win in seven then, and I'm sticking with it. They got exactly what they want – a Game 7.

The question for the Spurs is, will those 3-pointers continue to miss? In Game 6, we saw them get a little tight and start missing at an amazing clip, as they finished the game 8-of-28 from the 3-point line.

That's not going to win any games at all, especially since a lot of those shots should have been touches for Duncan in the paint or opportunities to penetrate.

By taking and missing outside shots, the Spurs enable the Pistons to get into transition easily.

In any case, we're going to see a great game with a high energy level.
Greg Anthony, ESPN Insider



Prediction: San Antonio

Before the series started, I picked the Spurs to win in seven games, and I'm sticking with it.

They're at home, and I'm counting on Tim Duncan to be dominant in this game. I think their defense is going to be better, but they need Duncan to have a monster game with 25-plus points and 15-plus rebounds. He has to make himself known in every quarter, especially down the stretch in the fourth.

The Spurs also must find a way to contain Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. That's easier said than done, but they have to find a way to stop them because the Pistons don't lose when both those guys get 20-plus points.

If the series had ended Tuesday with a Spurs win, I would have picked Manu Ginobili as MVP because I think he's been their best player in every win except for Game 5. Now I have to wait because Duncan could come up huge and steal the MVP trophy from his teammate. To do that, he'll have to take over completely and make it happen on both ends of the court.
Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Prediction: Detroit

For five reasons ...

1. I don't think Ginobili has been healthy since Game 3, Duncan seems worn down to me, and I don't think there's anyone else on the Spurs who can carry them. If Big Shot Brob didn't have his out-of-body experience in Game 5, they could have (and probably would have) lost the last four games.

2. Home court doesn't matter when the Pistons are involved, so this is basically a pick 'em.

3. If I had to bet on anyone, I'd bet on Chauncey Billups being the best player on the court tonight and kick-starting the "Where does he rank among the best big-game guards over the past 35 years?" debate.

4. The Pistons are 10-0 in must-win games or deciding games over the last two springs, officially bringing the Patriots Corollary into play.

5. I'm tired of going against them and being wrong.
Bill Simmons, ESPN.com

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Spurs' Pic Of The Day
Duncan
AP
Duncan is playing as if the weight of the world – or at least the weight of the state of Texas – is on his shoulders.


Big Redhead On Big Fundamental
Duncan

Tim Duncan is a methodical, mechanical player. He has to become someone different because right now, Bruce Bowen, Nazr Mohammed and Tony Parker are standing out there wondering whether they can get it done. Somebody has to do something in Game 7, and it has to be about more than words.

In Game 6, Duncan took just six shots in the first half. Thursday night, he has to put up huge numbers.

Duncan has to look at his teammates and say, "I want that ball." He must challenge them and say, "Come on, what are you guys doing?" But he has to back that up with passion and emotion, showing that he cares and that it's important to him.

There's no question that Detroit will make Duncan score from the free-throw line. Whenever you play a great player you have to make him beat you with his offense, and right now, San Antonio doesn't have any offense. Traditionally, coach Gregg Popovich's teams have been continuity offenses, much like Phil Jackson's triangle offense. Right now, the Spurs' offense is nothing more than the guards trying to go into the post and throw up a wild shot.

Bill Walton, in San Antonio | Walton on ESPN Radio



The Other Trophy
Duncan

They'll be handing out two trophies Thursday night: A championship trophy to the Game 7 winners and an NBA Finals MVP trophy to the best player of the series.

San Antonio's Tim Duncan (2003) and Detroit's Chauncey Billups (2004) are the most recent Finals MVPs. They're also the most likely candidates to win another Finals MVP trophy, depending on which team prevails in Thursday's decider.

Billups' case, mind you, is stronger.

Detroit's point guard is the only player in the series averaging more than 20 points per game (21.7 ppg) and has somehow committed just eight turnovers in what ranks as the Stat O' The Series. A good Game 7 by Chauncey and a Detroit win would make Billups a virtual lock to repeat as Finals MVP, and be advised that he has averaged 25.7 points in his three previous Game 7s.

"I guess if he was a comedian," Spurs guard Brent Barry said, "he'd have great timing."

Duncan, meanwhile, isn't playing at his usual level of dominance, struggling against Detroit's three-man defensive rotation of Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Antonio McDyess. He's averaging just 19.8 points on 43.1 percent shooting and has missed nine fourth-quarter free throws in the past two games. Although Duncan has averaged 14.7 boards against the Pistons, he is San Antonio's Finals MVP favorite mainly because the Spurs appear to lack another viable candidate, short of dark horse Manu Ginobili and Game 5 hero Robert Horry.

The Spurs, though, are vowing to enhance Duncan's effectiveness in Game 7 after he went nearly five minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 6 without touching the ball.

"It's about us playing wisely, and Tim did what he was supposed to do [Tuesday] night," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We forgot about Tim Duncan. He didn't forget about anything."

Marc Stein, from the SBC Center in San Antonio


Pistons' Pic Of The Day
Wallace
'Sheed's secret to success might be his ability to sing his own song.


Game 7: What It's All About
On Wednesday, the Spurs and Pistons talked about Game 7:

Robert Horry: "Home court means more than experience. At home, we're in our comfort zone. Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond."

Tayshaun Prince: "Experience or home court doesn't really matter. Last year, we didn't have home court and we won [the title]."

Tony Parker: "Game 7 will be very physical. They may not call every foul. But you have to embrace [the pressure]. There is so much on the line."

Richard Hamilton: "I think our experience will help a lot in Game 7. But this is what we do. We want to go out on a winning note."

Bruce Bowen: "Honestly, it's just another game. Yeah, it's Game 7, it's the last game of the year, but I will not change my preparation."

Rasheed Wallace: "We just gotta play. It's not a do-or-die situation. We just gotta hoop."



Duncan's Discomfort
In Game 6, one reason Duncan didn't get touches in the post late in the game is that the Spurs were afraid the Pistons would put him on the line.

The Pistons know he's not only shaky on the line but also just plain uncomfortable. When you watch him shoot, it's clear that he doesn't know where the ball is going. So Detroit is going to take advantage by fouling him late in the game.

That will affect the Spurs' strategy in Game 7. If their best player can't get touches because he can't make foul shots, his teammates will have to step up. Obviously, the Spurs have the talent to do just that, but you'd like to win with what you know – and the Spurs, under normal circumstances, usually know what to expect when Duncan gets the ball in the post. The fact that right now they can't truly trust that he's going to knock down his foul shots when it matters really hurts their chances.

He's definitely a rhythm guy who has to get it going by knocking down his first four or five foul shots. If not, the Spurs are going to be in for a long night.

Tim Legler, in San Antonio



The Line
The Pistons' performance at the 3-point line, on both offense and defense, will be critical in Game 7.

The 3-point shot has been a problem in most of the series for the Pistons, as they were 8-of-44 in Games 1-5, and their inability to defend it or hit it helped cost them three games in this series.

After their 8-of-17 shooting night from beyond the arc in Game 6, the Pistons will go into Game 7 with a level of confidence they didn't have before. It's a lot harder for a team to make outside shots when it has the combination of pressure and a lack of confidence going against it. The Pistons will have confidence on their side after their Game 6 performance.

That will be key because Game 7 will become very difficult and physical. The Pistons aren't going to see a lot of easy inside shots because the Spurs will close the lane.

Usually a Game 7 is a notoriously stingy game that comes down to the winning team being able to make outside shots. I don't think this Game 7 is going to be any different.

Tim Legler, in San Antonio



Where's The D?
If San Antonio wants to win its third championship in a span of seven years, its first step is obvious.

That's right. Even higher on the list than helping Tim Duncan establish some low-post dominance is San Antonio's need to relocate the defense it played in the first two games of these Finals.

The Spurs held Detroit under 80 points in their Game 1 and 2 victories, marking the 12th and 13th consecutive games in the franchise's Finals history in which the opposition failed to score 90.

Since then?

The (allegedly) offensively challenged Pistons haven't scored fewer than 95 points in the last four games, mainly because they've been so good at protecting the basketball.

In Games 3-6 – which probably would have been four consecutive Pistons victories if not for Robert Horry's Game 5 heroics – Detroit has amazingly committed just 33 turnovers.

Asked to explain why his team couldn't force more than five turnovers in Game 6, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said: "Well, we're playing the NBA champions. And they are real good. That's a big part of it."

Marc Stein, in San Antonio



Nation Speaks
In the minds of some analysts, the Spurs' Gregg Popovich is the equal of any other coach in the NBA right now, thanks in large part to San Antonio's 1999 and 2003 NBA titles.

But when it comes down to it, SportsNation still prefers Detroit coach Larry Brown to Popovich in the big game, and by a wide margin.

Then again, when in doubt, fans would tend to go with the guy with nine rings.

We asked fans which man they would want to coach the ultimate game, and here are the results, with more than 105,000 votes:

Which current NBA head coach would you want leading your team in a Game 7?
50.0% Phil Jackson
36.3% Larry Brown
8.0% Gregg Popovich
3.1% Jerry Sloan
2.4% George Karl

 

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