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FIRST LOOK

SAN ANTONIO vs. DETROIT

June 07, 2005|Mike Bresnahan

* Season series: Split two games, each winning at home.

* San Antonio 80, Detroit 77, Dec. 3: The Pistons shrugged off a 21-point, third-quarter deficit and pulled within one before Brent Barry's free throws provided the final edge. Tim Duncan had 18 points and 18 rebounds. Piston guard Richard Hamilton had only eight points on four-for-14 shooting.

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* Detroit 110, San Antonio 101, March 20: Duncan played less than two minutes before leaving with a sprained ankle, but the Spurs got 54 points from reserves and hung around until the final minutes. Chauncey Billups had 25 points and Tayshaun Prince 22 for Detroit. "Maybe we'll see them in June," said Piston forward Rasheed Wallace, who had 15 points.

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* Comparing the starters: Great matchups all around. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been phenomenal in the backcourt, but so have the Pistons' Hamilton and Billups. A sprained ankle sidelined Duncan for the last 12 games of the regular season but he has averaged 24.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, three assists and 2.3 blocked shots in the playoffs. Ben Wallace, the league's defensive player of the year, and Rasheed Wallace will both spend time guarding Duncan. The Spurs' Bruce Bowen and the Pistons' Prince are top-notch defensive forwards.

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* Comparing the bench: The Spurs get an edge because of playoff maven Robert Horry, sharpshooter Barry and rookie point guard Beno Udrih, who can push the ball as frenetically as Parker if need be. The Piston bench has plenty of veterans -- Antonio McDyess, Lindsey Hunter, Elden Campbell -- but not much scoring.

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* Comparing the coaches: The Spurs' Gregg Popovich is one of the league's top tacticians and became the quickest coach in league history to reach 400 victories with a Nov. 12 victory over the Miami Heat. Larry Brown might be in his last season as Piston coach. Numerous media reports have him leaving Detroit to become the Cleveland Cavaliers' president after the season.

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* What to look for: The fatigue factor. The Pistons barely survived the Eastern Conference finals and will have only two days' rest before opening in San Antonio. On the flip side, the Spurs have had seven days of rest and are as relaxed as can be.

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-- Mike Bresnahan

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