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Expect well-rested Spurs to dethrone Pistons

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

June 8, 2005 | ESPN.com's NBA Finals coverage

We're set for an interesting NBA Finals as the last two teams to win the championship square off. It's defending champion Detroit vs. San Antonio, the 2003 champ.

The Finals will feature two brilliant tacticians on the sidelines. For the Pistons, Larry Brown is a Hall of Famer who's popular, well-respected and looking to repeat as champion. Remember, Brown is the only coach to win championships in both the NBA and the NCAA (1988, Kansas).

For the Spurs, Gregg Popovich isn't as well-known, but he's won two world championships (the first in '99). While many fans couldn't tell you much about San Antonio's coach, go ask his players and his peers how good he is!

Hamilton
Hamilton
Duncan
Duncan
Believe me, Spurs fans are happy with what Popovich has done. Communication is an important aspect of the Spurs' success story under Popovich. This coach has the ability to get the maximum out of his players.

Of course, there's plenty of talent on these clubs, too.

The Pistons have balance and great perimeter play. Defense and excellent free-throw shooting down the stretch helped Detroit get into the championship round. These are vital elements for the defending champs. And guard Richard Hamilton, who won a national championship at UConn in 1999, has developed into a star.

The big question is, will the Pistons have an answer for Tim Duncan inside? Ben Wallace, Detroit's defensive stopper, just had a physical battle with Shaquille O'Neal, and now he'll be challenged by Duncan, who is quicker than Shaq.

Duncan is one of the best players in the game, but he doesn't get much notoriety or publicity like some of the spectacular, flashier stars. The Wake Forest product doesn't get the fanfare of a Kobe Bryant, but Duncan is fundamentally solid and poised. He's a winner who wants the ball when the game is on the line.

The development of point guard Tony Parker is another plus for the Spurs. He's a dynamite floor general. Manu Ginobili can attack the basket and shoot the 3-pointer, and his explosiveness has been on display in a great playoff run as San Antonio has knocked out the Denver Nuggets, Seattle SuperSonics and Phoenix Suns to reach the Finals.

Detroit is coming off a tough seven-game series against the Miami Heat, including a hard-fought win in Game 7 at Miami.

Isn't it great to see two teams in the NBA Finals with key players who learned so much by staying in college for three or four years? Hamilton stayed three years, and Duncan gained so much in his four years at Wake Forest. They became better players as a result.

The Pistons will battle, scrap and claw with their defense, but when all is said and done, I feel that San Antonio's fans on the Riverwalk will go bananas. The Spurs are well-rested and well-prepared, and their home-court advantage will be a big factor.

My prediction: Spurs in six games.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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