I've already said that I shifted my support to the Spurs midway through the series, and I think they merited that. This was supposed to be the series of offence versus defense, and it ended up as the series of offense versus the complete package. If Joe Johnson were healthy for the whole series, this would be a six of seven game series, but the Spurs still would have won. They're just a better team, and they have playoffs experience on their side. And they've become fun to watch.
In the end, the Pistons made it a war, and they won. I have no idea how this series would have played out with a healthy Shaq and Wade, however.
And now, the finals. Let's break it down.
Billups v. Parker
Chauncy is stronger, and a better shooter in the clutch. Tony is faster, and has a more reliable mid range jumper. But really, in a strange way, they're kinda the same player – mercurial, up and down, and as they go, the team goes. This would be the most important matchup of the series, but I think they kinda balance each other out. Still, if Chauncy can somehow dominate Parker, it gives the Pistons a much better shot in the series. I call it: Even.
Rip v. Manu
This matchup is gonna be fun to watch. Both are incredible athletes. Rip does everything within the team scheme, whereas Manu sometimes breaks everything down. But hey, he can do that, as he's more talented. I really like Rip, and he's proven that he can hang with players who are more athletically gifted than he his. But it's a cruel fate to have to play two straight series against players who are just ascending to greatness. I call it: Manu.
Prince v. Bowen
In last years finals, I predicted Prince would be the difference maker, and he was. In order for Detroit to have a shot, he's probably going to spend much of his time guarding Manu, but his matchup against Bowen is also an interesting one. Both are defensive prodigies, and both are role players on offense. But Tayshaun CAN be much more than that. If Bowen goes over to guard Rip, Prince must ABUSE Manu on offense. Of course, Manu is pretty good defensively as well. Still, I think Prince's talent and proven ability to come up big in big series prevails. I call it: Tayshaun.
Duncan v. Sheed
This is another interesting case. Physically, Rasheed is one of the very few players in the league who CAN matchup well against Duncan. He's almost as big, and is as fast and as athletic. Still, Sheed is only very, very good, whereas Tim-be-dunkin is great. This matchup needs to be close for the Pistons to have a shot. It may be fairly close. But still… I call it: Duncan.
Big Ben v. Nazr
I've been going on about Pistons players who NEED to excel for the team to have a shot. This is the one matchup that goes the other way. Nazr needs to be a viable offensive threat in order to keep Wallace from terrorizing everyone else in the paint. He also needs to help on D on Sheed. The disparity here may be the biggest of all the matchups. I call it: Wallace.
Both benches are fairly deep, and both are filled with players who know their roles and do them well. Really, this comes down to Horry v. Dice as the best forwards off the bench, and Barry v. Lindsey/Arroyo at the guard. Barry is better than anything Detroit has on the bench, and I don't like to bet against Horry in the playoffs. So this is a fairly simple call. I call it: Spurs Bench.
Pop v. Larry
The two best coaches in the league square off. Larry is supposed to be the greatest coach in the league, and he's certainly the best at moulding a team. Pop has shown his greatness in the one area he was supposed to be lacking: Flexibility. By allowing Many freedom to operate, he made this team much more unpredictable, and much more dangerous. I think Larry should have done the same with Prince, but Prince's character may not have allowed it. Either way this goes, it'll be a great, great matchup. I call it: Even.
Experience v. Experience
Both teams are as healthy as can be expected at this point. Both have been there before. Pistons brought back nearly all of last year's championship teams, and most of the Spurs' key players have rings as well. If the Spurs have an edge, it's in the brains department. But the Pistons may have the bigger heart. Who the hell knows. I've started talking in cliches. Fuck it. I call it: Even.
This absulutely will be a war. Once again, the Pistons face a team that will have the two best players on the series. But this is a much more balanced team the Miami, and a much smarter one. Detroit needs to play a perfect game every game, and it's damn hard to do against the only defense in the league that's as good as theirs. I call it: Spurs in Six.