in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The San Antonio Spurs win a thrilling seven-game battle with the Detroit Pistons to win their third NBA Championships. The Spurs win the seventh game 81-74 at SBC Center. Tim Duncan joins elite company winning his third NBA Finals MVP. Duncan averaged 20.6 points and 14.1 rebounds in the NBA Finals, scoring a game-high 25 points in Game 7 to secure the championship.
Coached by Larry Brown, the Detroit Pistons were the surprise NBA Champions of 2004, upsetting the Los Angeles Lakers who imploded thanks to a feud between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The early part of the Pistons’ season was filled with turmoil after an ugly fight with the Indiana Pacers led to several suspensions for both teams as the Pistons fought with the fans. The Pistons overcame “The Malice at the Palace” to finish second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 54-28 as Ben Wallace was named Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season.
In the playoffs, the Pistons needed just five games to deep-six the Philadelphia 76ers. The second round would see a showdown with the Pacers, whom the Pistons beat in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004 and had the ugly incident in November. The Pistons would win the series in six games to reach the conference finals for the third consecutive year. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons rallied to upset the Miami Heat in seven games, spoiling Shaquille O’Neal’s first season in South Beach.
The San Antonio Spurs, who won the 1999 and 2003 NBA Championships, was hoping to show that life without David Robinson would include more championships. The Los Angeles Lakers dethroned the Spurs in 2004. However, with Phil Jackson retired and the Lakers in a season of dysfunction missed the playoffs in 2005. The Spurs finished second in the West with a record of 59-23 under coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs needed five games to burry the Denver Nuggets in the first round. Moving on, they beat the Seattle SuperSonics in six games. In the Western Conference Finals, they would eclipse the Phoenix Suns in five games.
The opener at SBC Arena in San Antonio saw the Spurs rally from a 37-35 first-half deficit and win going away 84-69. Leading the way for San Antonio was Manu Ginobili, who had a game-high 26 points with nine rebounds, as Tim Duncan won the battle of the boards with 17 rebounds. Game 2 was all San Antonio as Ginobli again led the way with 27 points as the Spurs won 97-76.
As the series shifted the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Pistons found their game, winning Game 3 by a score of 96-79. It was Richard Hamilton leading the way for Detroit with 24 points as Chauncey Billups added 20. The Pistons kept the home fires burning in Game 4, winning 102-71 as seven different players reached double digits. This included Billups and Lindsey Hunter, who had 17 points.
After the Spurs and Pistons split the first four games, Game 5 would turn out to be the game of the series. Tim Duncan led the way for San Antonio with 26 points and 19 rebounds. The Pistons were led by Chauncey Billups, who scored a game-high 34 points as there were 12 lead changes and 18 ties in a game that would go to overtime. The Pistons took the early lead in overtime, but with 5.8 seconds left “Big Shot Bob,” Robert Horry hit game-winner to send the Spurs back to Texas with 3-2 series lead, following a 96-95 win.
Looking to close the series out in six games, stumbled at home losing 95-86 as Rasheed Wallace clinched the victory with a late three-pointer for the Pistons. The Pistons win in Game 6 meant that the NBA Finals would go the distance for the first time in 11 years as it was the first Game 7 since 1994.
Game 7 was close, as the Pistons held a one-point lead at the half. In the third quarter, Detroit came out strong to stretch their lead to nine. From there, Tim Duncan found his shot scoring ten of the Spurs’ 19 points in the fourth quarter as the game went into the final quarter tied 57-57. With the 1-2 punch of Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs methodically took command in the fourth quarter, winning 81-74 to claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Tim Duncan had a game-high 25 points in Game 7, while Manu Ginobili had 23.