King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The NBA Finals finally offer up the close game we've been expecting, but this series continues to confound. Plus: Waltonism of the night, Kid Rock.

By Salon Staff
Published June 20, 2005 7:00PM (EDT)

I knew if we all kept tuning in -- all 23 of us outside of Texas and Michigan who are watching -- we'd get to see a good game in the NBA Finals.

Game 5 Sunday wasn't just good, it was great, an overtime thriller. Robert Horry, who has made something of a career out of this sort of thing, hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds to go in the extra period to give the San Antonio Spurs a 96-95 win over the Detroit Pistons and a 3-2 lead in the series.

If the Pistons are going to defend their title, they'll have to win back-to-back games in San Antonio, where they haven't won since 1997, which isn't as bad as it sounds. It's bad, but it's only 10 games.

One thing that hasn't changed, now that the Pistons and Spurs have played a close one, is their ability to be confounding.

It wasn't enough for these two evenly matched teams to play four straight blowouts, the most lopsided first four games in NBA Finals history, no game in doubt anywhere near the end.

It wasn't enough for the Pistons to win Game 4 by 31 points, the biggest rout in the finals in five years, or for that win to be aided by an offensive explosion to the tune of 17 points by Lindsey Hunter, the defensive specialist who hadn't scored in double figures in 52 straight playoff games and had shot a horrible 28.1 percent in 21 postseason games this season.

Detroit and San Antonio had to go and give us a Game 5 in which the Spurs pulled out a victory despite the play of their best player, Tim Duncan.

Who had that one in the pool?

Duncan played well to put the Spurs in position to win in the first place. He'd end up with 26 points and 19 rebounds. But down the stretch he looked like he was auditioning for the lead in "The Devean George Story."

He missed six straight free throws in the fourth quarter and had a chance at a game-winning put-back on Manu Ginobili's layup at the regulation buzzer, but he mistimed his leap a little bit and could only manage an awkward attempt, which missed.

In the overtime, Duncan missed a shot on each of San Antonio's first two possessions as the Spurs fell behind by four and didn't score for 2:50. Then, down by two with 55 seconds to go, he fumbled away a pass in the low post for a turnover.

But the Spurs got a break. Rather than running their offense after they got an offensive rebound, the Pistons had Chauncey Billups stand at the top of the key, guarded by Bruce Bowen, for 17 seconds, running the clock down from 33 seconds to 16. Then he drove into the lane and missed a difficult finger roll.

Duncan got the rebound and called timeout with 9.4 seconds to go, and that set up the inbounds play that led to Horry's game-winning 3-pointer. It was Horry's fifth three of the night, giving him 21 points. He'd had zero before hitting a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter.

The real miracle of this game came on the Pistons' last chance, when Rip Hamilton drove across the lane guarded by Tony Parker. Hamilton threw an elbow at Parker's chin just before launching a 14-foot jumper and, incredibly, Parker wasn't called for a foul.

So now the Flyover Finals fly back down to San Antonio, and the commentariat has to do another about face. Remember after Game 4 how the Pistons had taken over the series, had all the momentum, seemed like they couldn't lose to the Spurs at home? The only question remaining would be whether the Pistons could get a win in the Spurs' gym.

Now, thanks to Horry's shot going in instead of rimming out, a matter of an inch or two, it's the Pistons who have no chance. Sure, they just got done beating the Spurs by 17 and 31 points and came within an inch or two from sweeping three games at home, but win two straight in San Antonio? Are you kidding?

Well I, for one, wouldn't put it past them. I don't think the Pistons are going to win Games 6 and 7 on the road, but in a series in which Detroit has ridden Lindsey Hunter's shooting to victory and San Antonio has overcome the play of Tim Duncan to get a big win, I'm no longer willing to be surprised by anything.

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Waltonism of the night [PERMALINK]

"I'm befuddled by your comments." -- Greg Anthony to Bill Walton.

Walton had just opened the halftime show with this comment about a game that was then tied 42-42: "Detroit is flat. Ben Wallace is their best offensive player. The Pistons are playing as if San Antonio is just going to give it to 'em. San Antonio, they've got the belief, they've got the confidence back. They don't need to win this game. All they need to do is just be competitive, and they've already done that."

Anthony thought things were looking good for the Pistons because the Spurs played "perfect basketball in essence for about 18 minutes of that half, yet you look at the score and it's tied." He didn't for a minute buy Walton's idea that the Spurs were "thinking big picture" and just looking not to get blown out in Game 5, so they could go home and win two straight.

"I'm befuddled by your comments." That was a good one.

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I hear Omerica singing [PERMALINK]

Kid Rock sang "Omerica the Beautiful" again before Game 5. It was exactly the same as his performance last year, so I'll refer you to my comments from that magical night.

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