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SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The NBA Finals will be more about substance than style, more about matchups than minutiae.



Published: Wed, June 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The NBA Finals will be more about substance than style, more about matchups than minutiae.

Neither the Detroit Pistons nor the San Antonio Spurs are all that sexy on the surface, but both are a sight to behold for basketball purists. And if one looks deep enough and factors in a few special subplots, there might just be that little extra something that draws in the masses.

One team is the defending champion. The other was the reigning titlist a year ago.

The best known player, Tim Duncan, seems dull but is quietly charismatic.

The coaches, Detroit's Larry Brown and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, are such good friends that "Pop" was the best man at the wedding of "L.B." They speak on the phone nearly every day.

Both teams have made defense and team play their calling cards. Neither has a player who will make your jaw drop.

You've got Detroit's Rasheed Wallace with his foul mouth and his championship belt, and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili with his South American flair and his Olympic gold medal.

World-wide talent

There are backup point guards from Slovenia and San Juan, wizened veterans in the far corners of each locker room, public address announcers with unique and distinct styles.

See? It won't just be about X's and O's.

"I think you're going to see another great series," Detroit's Chauncey Billups said after the Pistons defeated the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. "It's going to be a tough challenge."

Game 1 is Thursday night, and Game 2 is Sunday, both in San Antonio. The series then shifts northward for Games 3, 4 and 5.

All subplots aside, it shapes up as a fair match -- maybe even the kind of series that will last seven games, something that hasn't happened in the NBA Finals since 1994.

Well-rested Spurs

San Antonio has been waiting around since finishing off Phoenix last Wednesday, and the Spurs finally got to go through a practice Tuesday knowing exactly who stands in the way of them winning their third championship in seven years.

That team, Detroit, is a formidable obstacle.

Start with Ben Wallace, because with the Pistons you can really start with anyone. They are a team built around the concept of being a team.

Wallace was the NBA's defensive player of the year, and now he'll be asked to stop a two-time MVP in Duncan whose low-post offensive game is much more refined and multifaceted than that of Miami's Shaquille O'Neal.

"Duncan is a great player. He'll eventually be a Hall of Famer. You know, Shaq is Shaq. That's a tall task," Wallace said.

Leading scorer

Then there's Richard Hamilton, the Pistons' leading scorer. He has scored at least 20 points in all but one of the Pistons' 18 postseason games, and he gets his points the old-fashioned way by coming off screens and knocking down mid-range jump shots.

But Hamilton has a formidable obstacle trying to stop him, too, in Bruce Bowen, the Spurs' defensive specialist.

It's one of many matchups that will make this series so interesting from a tactical standpoint. Centers will be guarding forwards, forwards will be defending guards, and the adjustments that will be made by the two wise old coaches will go a long way toward determining which team emerges on top.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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