The San Antonio Spurs had an epic showdown with the Detroit Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals, but Rasheed Wallace believes something tainted the series.
Out of all five of their NBA championships, the 2005 title run was the toughest for the San Antonio Spurs. While they didn’t have any problems against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals, the Detroit Pistons were waiting in the wings to defend their 2004 title in the NBA Finals.
The series boasted the top two teams in the league in points allowed per game, with the Spurs allowing just 88.4 (1st) and the Pistons allowing 89.5 (2nd). Both teams also had a balanced attack on offense, with the Big Three of the Spurs taking on the likes of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace.
On a recent episode of Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles, Wallace re-lived the memories of the Pistons’ bid to repeat. During the podcast, Wallace was asked how the Pistons ended up losing the series to San Antonio.
“Number one, we knew that they were the NBA’s team,” said Wallace. “David Stern loved them because, at the time, he called them ‘his team of United Nations.’ That’s when he was trying to make a whole push to get the NBA over in China. He’s glorifying the fact that we have a team playing for the world championship in the NBA and there’s only two or three Americans on there out of 15 guys.”
To do some fact-checking, that year’s Spurs squad actually had 12 American-born players out of the 17 total players they had on their roster.
If Rasheed is counting Tim Duncan‘s birthplace of the U.S. Virgin Islands as not part of the United States, then the point he might’ve been trying to make was that San Antonio’s best three players were all foreign. Still, “two or three Americans” is not even close.
“It was a hell of a battle,” continued Wallace. “It just came down to; it was a whole lot more for us to fight. When you get them home crews in there, you know. We knew what we were facing. We knew it was an uphill battle. We knew we weren’t going to get homecourt love or none of that.”
For context, the Spurs averaged 22.7 free throw attempts per game in the series while the Pistons averaged 18.0. At the Palace of Auburn Hills, however, free throw attempts were virtually identical at 21.7 for San Antonio and 21.0 for Detroit.
None of the disparities seem particularly significant, but it’s hard to fault Wallace for wanting to come up with a storyline to justify dropping the series. After all, it was his gamble that kept Detroit from taking a 3-2 lead heading back to the Alamo City.
Still, Wallace acknowledges that Detroit had their chances and didn’t totally discredit the Spurs for what they did. “It was a hell of a match — seven games,” said Wallace. I don’t regret it.”