How odd is this. There have been THREE Game 7s in these playoffs...and the road team has now won TWO of them. Kind of unheard of, since the home team wins usually 90% of the Game 7s.
Or, how about this....neither team with the home court advantage won the Conference Finals. In fact, home teams went 4-3 in the ECF and a horrid 1-4 in the WCF. That means the best teams in the NBA went a combined 5-7 at home in the Conference Finals.
Or, how about this? This marks the second straight year that both teams with homecourt advantage in the Conference Finals lost their series. Last year, the Lakers and Pistons upended the Wolves and Pacers. In fact, there has been only ONE other time that has occurred since the Conference Finals went to 7 game series...1978. So quite an odd feat there.
The oddest thing, however, is the teams that are battling for the title. The San Antonio Spurs against the Detroit Pistons. That is the rarest of all. Both are championship teams. The last time two championship teams met each other in the NBA Finals was back in 1987 when the Lakers and Celtics met in the Finals for the last time. Since then, it is usually an "upstart" that faces off against a team that has been there before. Aside from the 2004 Lakers, you have to go back to the...uh....1991 Lakers to find a champion that was upended in the Finals. But, in that year, the Lakers weren’t the same team as their 1980s squads were and they faced the upstart Chicago Bulls.
What if we saw the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets play in the NBA Finals in the mid-to-late-1990s?? That is why those Lakers-Celtics battles in the 1980s hold so much weight still. It wasn’t just a team trying to win another title....it was also making sure that your opponent DIDN’T get another one.
So the Spurs and Pistons will meet in the battle of the last two NBA Champions.
This will be a great matchup. No matter what you breakdown....the coaches [Greg Popovich and Larry Brown] will have it broken down further. The Spurs are a team made up of shrewd late draft picks [Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili] and solid role players [Bowen, Horry] to surround the superstar [Tim Duncan]. The Pistons are a team that had a brawl in their arena, their coach with health issues, and trailing in the series against Indiana and TWICE against Miami.
One thing is for sure....this will be a defensive series. And neither team will have seen anything like this. The Spurs faced off against offensive teams in Denver, Seattle and Phoenix. Detroit faced patched work teams in Philly, Indiana and Miami. Even their Championships were won fairly simply. The Spurs faced a #8 seeded Knicks after the strike shortened 1999 season and then the freakin’ Nets. The Pistons faced off against a Lakers team that was imploding before everyone’s eyes. Their new opponents are the best teams they have faced this postseason....and when is the last time you could say that about an NBA Finals??
So....what is my analysis?? There will be some great guard play in this series [duh]. Also, the Pistons will throw a lot of guys on Duncan [duh]. However, when surveying what both teams have done...it is hard not to be impressed with San Antonio’s road. They knocked off the Mighty Nuggets in 5 games....stopped a hot Sonics team in 6....and wiped away a Suns team that had the best regular season record. The Pistons struggled against Indiana and went the distance against a severely banged up Miami team. I mean, Detroit won Game 1 when Shaq didn’t play and Game 6 when Wade didn’t go.
So here is my prediction. I’ll pick the Spurs in 6 games....with Manu Ginobili taking MVP honors. Every game will be close....with San Antonio’s ability to get close shots as the deciding factor.
As former Rockets coach [and one-time Laker] Rudy T once said...never underestimate the heart of a champion.
Well....there are a couple of ‘em out there.