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Game 7 pressure starting to mount



Published: Thu, June 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Pistons are 10-0 in games when they have a chance to eliminate an opponent.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- One of the most vivid memories Robert Horry has from the last Game 7 in NBA Finals history was New York Knicks guard John Starks firing up shot after shot after shot after shot -- almost none of which went in.

It was a meltdown of epic proportions that to this day will bring a cringe to the face of any Knicks fan who witnessed it.

Eleven shots went up from 3-point range, each one missing. Overall, Starks shot 2-for-18.

"From my end, I loved seeing it," said Horry, who played for the Houston Rockets in 1994, when they defeated the Knicks 90-84 to win the first of consecutive titles. "I'm hoping John Starks' spirit will go into Chauncey [Billups] or one of them."

The pressure of Game 7 will be equal for both Horry's San Antonio Spurs and Billups' Detroit Pistons tonight in the last game of the NBA season. The team that responds best will walk away with the championship.

Last Game 7 in 1994

There hasn't been a winner-take-all game in the finals since June 22, 1994, and San Antonio hasn't been involved in one since the 1990 Western Conference semifinals in David Robinson's rookie season.

But the Spurs do have Horry, 5-0 in Game 7s. He was with the Rockets in their championship seasons of 1994 and 1995, and was a Laker when Los Angeles won the 2000 and 2002 titles.

"I remember the feeling after all five of them," Horry said. "That's one of the most joyous experiences in your life, right up there with having kids. It's candy. It's sweet to you. You just want to keep going and have more."

Playing Game 7 will be nothing new for the Pistons, who knocked off the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals 2 1/2 weeks ago and dispatched the New Jersey Nets in Game 7 of the conference semifinals last year.

The Pistons trailed 3-2 in both series, as they did in this one, and another clutch performance would bring a back-to-back title and the enhanced legacy that comes attached. In their last 10 games with a chance to eliminate an opponent, the Pistons are 10-0.

New experience for Spurs

Most of the Spurs will be experiencing a Game 7 in person for the first time. Tim Duncan has never played in one, nor have starters Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Nazr Mohammed.

"You have a lot of pressure, and sometimes the pressure will burst the pipes, sometimes the pressure will make diamonds," Horry said. "You have to have a cocky confidence. This team, we developed it in the Phoenix series, and I think it'll come out."

Of the 15 previous Game 7s in NBA history, the road team has won only three times. Also, no team has ever won the final two games on the road since the 2-3-2 format was adopted in 1985, and no team has ever won two Game 7s on the road in a single postseason. Detroit will try to do that against a team that hasn't lost consecutive home games all season.

To hear the Pistons tell it, anyone who thinks those trends will have any bearing on tonight's outcome is misguided. They've shown time and again their impervious nature when confronted with dire circumstances, and the way they outperformed San Antonio in Game 6 -- leaving lost, bewildered looks on the faces of the Spurs -- augers well going into the biggest game of the year.

Keeping them calm

"I love it," Billups said. "I think so many players just get a little too excited and get a little too impatient. That's where I come in with that calm demeanor, just staying poised out there and playing this Game 7 like it's Game 1."

Billups is the Pistons' leading contender to be named MVP of the series if Detroit wins, while Ginobili has been the Spurs' key cog in each of their victories.

In an admission not often uttered by pro athletes on the eve of big games, both Ginobili and Duncan said they'd be nervous in the hours leading up to Game 7. The Pistons were making no such concessions, a sign that the edge in confidence might be tilted in Detroit's favor.

"Against them, anything can happen," Ginobili said. "But I think we're going to be fine."




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