Single page view By Bill Simmons
Page 2

"Note to self: Never underestimate the defending champs."

I wrote that line after the Pistons fended off Miami in Game 7. Did I follow my own advice? Of course not! After Robert Horry's heroics in Game 5, I thought the 2005 NBA Finals were finished. Unfortunately, so did the Spurs. They planned their championship parade for Thursday, then played Game 6 like they were waiting for the Pistons to self-destruct and go home. Never happened. Now we're headed for the fourth Game 7 in 25 years … which would be fantastic except like I said before, this has turned into one of those crummy Oscar seasons in which nobody made a movie good enough to win "Best Picture," only they have to hand out the award, anyway (much like Nash's winning the MVP).

Think about it. The Spurs just lost three of the past four games (completely inexcusable under any circumstances), were blown out four times this spring (once against Denver, once against Seattle, twice against Detroit) and failed to finish off a team just 48 hours removed from one of most crushing losses in the history of the league (and at home, no less). Would the '86 Celtics have lost Game 6 at home last night? What about the '92 Bulls? Or the '82 Lakers? Come on. Any team worth its salt takes care of business last night. If the Spurs prevail Thursday, they're still the flimsiest champ since the '94 Rockets. I take back every nice thing I ever said about them.

(Note: I would have gone with the '99 Spurs over the '94 Rockets if that '99 season ever happened. When NBA TV finally puts me in charge of its network, my first move will be to switch Rick Kamia to decaf. My second move will be to ban all WNBA scores and updates from the scrolling ticker. My third move will be to purchase "The White Shadow" rights and run "Shadow" doubleheaders on Tuesday nights. My fourth move will be "H-O-R-S-E Me Baby One More Time," where failed lottery picks play games of H-O-R-S-E for $25,000. And my fifth move would be to destroy all footage from the 1999 season. I'm revealing moves 6 through 500 when I get the job. Until then …)

Meanwhile, the Pistons' resolve has been more than admirable – especially Tuesday night, when they prevailed on the road even though they weren't getting any calls – but they have lost a whopping nine playoff games this spring, which could tie the 1988 Lakers' record for "Most playoff games lost by a team that ended up winning a title" (and that '88 Lakers team was just as shaky). They're just one of those teams that can't seem to get it together unless they absolutely have to get it together. Again, a great team would have knocked them off already. But that's the thing about the Pistons – in a league without a single great team, these guys are so mentally tough that you have to blow them out of the building to finish them off. In the words of Teddy KGB (thick Russian accent), they keep hannnnging around and hannnnnnging around. And nobody has the firepower to get rid of them.

The question remains: Is this entertaining? Much like the Rockets and Knicks in the hideous 1994 Finals, the Spurs and Pistons seem to bring out the worst in one another (only without OJ's Bronco Chase to lighten the mood). Some basketball purists love the defensive energy on both sides, how this is turning into a battle of wills, who wants it more, all that crap. And that would be fine … if this was hockey or football. Unfortunately, it's basketball. In the NBA Finals, both teams are supposed to play more than seven guys, and it shouldn't be cause for celebration when someone makes two straight jumpers or plays above his head for an entire game. Only in Game 5 did both teams bring out the best in one another. It shouldn't be a bi-weekly occurrence.


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