ESPN Insider Brian James will provide scouting reports throughout the NBA Finals.
After seven months of training camp and the regular season, and another six weeks of playoffs, we finally have only two teams standing. And if you ask many of the so-called experts, the majority would have gotten it right this time in terms of picking which two teams would be in the Finals. I clearly believe that the best two teams are playing for the championship in San Antonio and Detroit. In my mind, they mirror one another. The two teams split in the regular season. Tim Duncan had an 18-point, 18-rebound performance in a three-point Spurs win in early December. Then Duncan injured his ankle in the Spurs' nine-point loss to Detroit in late March.
These are the best two defensive teams in the NBA in my opinion, when formulating points allowed, defensive field-goal percentage, defensive 3-point field-goal percentage and blocked shots. They both follow their coach's system to a T, and you rarely see miscues or missed assignments on defense. Look for the big men to aggressively show hard on shooters coming off screens. Yet they will also force you baseline into the four or five when you get the ball on the side and a screen is coming to free you. They are continually changing coverages on the defensive end to confuse their opponents. An example is both San Antonio and Detroit may go under a screen at the top against the point guards, but then trap in the fourth quarter to get the ball stopped. Both can run when given the opportunity, as San Antonio proved in the Phoenix series. The Spurs can play almost any style of offense you want, but they'll always make sure Duncan gets his touches early and often especially in the fourth quarter.
Both have great strengths and not many weaknesses. When the Big Three of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker plays well, the Spurs don't lose. The Spurs have done a tremendous job taking away the strengths of their opponents. They are great at taking away your first option. The 3-point defense in the postseason has been tremendous. Detroit has shown time and time again how poised and collected it is in the last few possessions when it really counts, as Game 7 against Miami proved. No one is mentally tougher. The Pistons have done this all postseason. Both would have been the top seeds if Duncan and Larry Brown had not missed so many contests due to injury or illness.
Fans and the media may not give Detroit the credit it deserves. The Pistons just don't have marquee stars. But the respect they have around the league by coaches and players alike are at an all-time high. They are a pain to play against since they take you out of your offense with their pressure. San Antonio will see an unselfish, balanced scoring team, and five starters that can all hurt them.