NBA Finals - Game 7
2005: Detroit Pistons @ San Antonio Spurs

Following the Houston Rockets' seven-game triumph over the New York Knicks in 1994, the NBA went 11 years before enjoying another seven-game thriller.

  • In between, Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls won three more championships in a row, giving them six in an eight-year period.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers won three in a row under Jackson from 2000-2002, bookended by San Antonio Spurs' titles before and after that string.
  • Larry Brown's Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers in five games in 2004.
  • FI

The NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004 when the Bobcats became the league's 30th franchise.

  • The league was divided into six divisions of five teams instead of the four divisions of varying numbers of teams in previous years.
  • The biggest trade occurred before the season when the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to Miami, reportedly because of Shaq's feud with teammate Kobe Bryant.
  • LA Coach Phil Jackson also stepped down, replaced by Rudy Tomjanovich. Without Shaq and Jackson, the Lakers missed the playoffs for only the fifth time in their history.

The Bulls and the Washington Wizards ended long playoff droughts with their last previous postseason appearances being in 1998 and 1997 respectively.

  • They faced each other in the first round, with the Wizards prevailing in six games.
  • The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers faced each other in the first round for the third straight year. The Pacers won the hard-fought seven-game series.
  • The Phoenix Suns advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1993, losing to the Spurs in five games.
  • In the East, the Pistons fought off the Pistons in seven games to earn a chance to defend their 2004 NBA Championship.
Eastern Conference
Western Conference
Atlantic Division
Team W L % GB
Boston Celtics 45 37 .549 --
Philadelphia 76ers 43 39 .524 2
New Jersey Nets 42 40 .512 3
New York Knicks 33 49 .402 12
Toronto Raptors 33 49 .402 12
Northwest Division
Team W L % GB
Seattle Supersonics 52 30 .634 --
Denver Nuggets 49 33 .598 3
Minnesota Timberwolves 44 38 .537 8
Portland Trail Blazers 27 55 .329 25
Utah Jazz 26 56 .317 26
Central Division
Team W L % GB
Detroit Pistons 54 28 .659 --
Chicago Bulls 47 35 .573 7
Indiana Pacers 44 38 .537 10
Cleveland Cavaliers 42 40 .512 12
Milwaukee Bucks 30 52 .366 24
Pacific Division
Team W L % GB
Phoenix Suns 62 20 .756 --
Sacramento Kings 50 32 .610 12
Los Angeles Clippers 37 45 .451 25
Los Angeles Lakers 34 48 .415 28
Golden State Warriors 34 48 .415 28
Southeast Division
Team W L % GB
Miami Heat 59 23 .720 --
Washington Wizards 45 37 .549 14
Orlando Magic 36 46 .439 23
Charlotte Bobcats 18 64 .220 41
Atlanta Hawks 13 69 .159 46
Southwest Division
Team W L % GB
San Antonio Spurs 59 23 .720 --
Dallas Mavericks 58 24 .707 1
Houston Rockets 51 31 .622 8
Memphis Grizzlies 45 37 .549 14
New Orleans Hornets 18 64 .220 41

Eastern Conference First Round
Heat over Nets 4-0
Wizards over Bulls 4-2
Pacers over Celtics 4-3
Pistons over 76ers 4-1

Western Conference First Round
Suns over Grizzlies 4-0
Mavericks over Rockets 4-3
Supersonics over Kings 4-1
Spurs over Nuggets 4-1
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Heat over Wizards 4-0
Pistons over Pacers 4-2
Western Conference Semifinals
Suns over Mavericks 4-2
Spurs over Supersonics 4-2
Eastern Conference Finals
Pistons over Heat 4-3
Western Conference Finals
Spurs over Suns 4-1

The oddsmakers installed the Spurs as 3-1 favorites in a matchup of the last two NBA champions, coached by longtime friends Gregg Popovich and Larry Brown.

# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College/Country Exp.
2 Nazr Mohammed C 6-10 220 Kentucky 7
3 Glenn Robinson SF 6-7 225 Purdue 11
4 Sean Marks PF 6-10 250 California 5
5 Robert Horry PF 6-9 220 Alabama 13
8 Radoslav Nesterovic C 7-0 250 Slovenia 7
9 Tony Parker PG 6-2 185 France 4
11 Mike Wilks PG 5-10 185 Rice 3
12 Bruce Bowen SF 6-7 185 Cal State Fullerton 9
14 Beno Udrih PG 6-3 205 Slovenia 1
17 Brent Barry SG 6-6 185 Oregon State 10
20 Manu Ginobili SG 6-6 205 Argentina 3
21 Tim Duncan PF 6-11 250 Wake Forest 8
23 Devin Brown SG 6-5 220 Texas-San Antonio 3
34 Tony Massenburg PF 6-0 220 Maryland 13
43 Linton Johnson SF 6-8 205 Tulane 2
Coach: Gregg Popovich
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College/Country Exp.
1 Chauncey Billups PG 6-3 202 Colorado 8
3 Ben Wallace C 6-9 240 Virginia Union 9
5 Horace Jenkins PG 6-1 180 William Patterson 1
8 Darvin Ham SF 6-7 220 Texas Tech 8
10 Lindsey Hunter SG 6-2 170 Jackson State 12
12 Ronald Dupree SF 6-7 210 LSU 2
20 Carlos Delfino SG 6-6 230 Argentina 1
22 Tayshaun Prince SF 6-9 210 Kentucky 3
24 Antonio McDyess PF 6-9 220 Alabama 9
30 Carlos Arroyo PG 6-2 200 Florida International 4
31 Darko Milicic C 7-0 250 Serbia 2
32 Richard Hamilton SG 6-6 185 Connecticut 6
36 Rasheed Wallace PF 6-10 225 North Carolina 10
41 Elden Campbell C 6-11 215 Clemson 15
Coach: Larry Brown
# Date Place Winner Loser Winning Team
High Scorer
Losing Team
High Scorer
1 June 9 San Antonio Spurs 94 Pistons 69 Ginobili 26 Billups 25
2 June 12 San Antonio Spurs 97 Pistons 76 Ginobili 27 McDyess 15
3 June 14 Detroit Pistons 96 Spurs 79 Hamilton 24 Parker 21
4 June 16 Detroit Pistons 102 Spurs 71 Billups/Hunter 17 Duncan 16
5 June 19 Detroit Spurs 96 Pistons 95 Duncan 26 Billups 34
6 June 21 San Antonio Pistons 95 Spurs 86 Hamilton 23 Duncan/Ginobili 21

The home team won each of the first four Finals games.

  • Game One: Argentine G Manu Ginobili sparked the San Antonio's victory by scoring 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to stretch the Spurs' four-point lead entering the final 12 minutes to an 84-69 win. C Tim Duncan played his usual solid game with 24 points and 17 rebounds. G Chauncey Billups' 25 points kept the Pistons in the game, but he got little help from his teammates as the next highest scorer was Richard Hamilton with 14.
  • Game Two: The Spurs jumped out to a 30-19 lead after one quarter and widened it to 58-42 at the half. The Pistons played even in the third quarter, but it was too little too late. Duncan again led the rebounders with 11 and contributed 18 points. A reserve, Antonio McDyess, led Detroit with 15 points.
  • Game Three: Back home at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Pistons trailed 42-41 at halftime but exploded for 55 points in the second half to win 96-79. They held Ginobili to just seven points although F Tony Parker picked up some of the slack with 21 to lead the Spurs. Detroit C Ben Wallace outrebounded Duncan 11-10, and F Richard Hamilton led all scorers with 24.
Game 3 Action

  • Game Four: The homecourt advantage held true again as the Pistons clobbered the Spurs 102-71, outscoring the visitors in every quarter. Duncan got 16 rebounds and 16 points, but the Pistons had seven players score in double digits.
  • Game Five: The pivotal fifth game went to overtime and came down to one shot with 9.6 seconds left. The Spurs had the ball trailing 95-94. "Big Shot Bob" Horry was ready to cut through the lane after inbounding the ball, but Rasheed Wallace suddenly went to double-team Ginobili in the corner. That left no one within 15' of one of the best clutch shooters in NBA postseason history. Horry nailed it to put the Spurs in the driver's seat, needing only one win in the two remaining games at their house.
    Years later, Chauncey Billups was still haunted by the Game 5 loss.
    "The darkest day of my career as a pro was when Horry hit that shot in Game 5 on us," he said. "Oh man, that was brutal."
    Billups wasn't on the court for the play, despite scoring a game-high 34 points and being a Second-Team All-Defensive player that season.
    "Here's what's crazy about that play," Billups said. "So we're in the huddle. Of course, me and everybody else is saying 'no matter what, no 3s, no 3s, press up, a 2 don't kill us, no 3s.' We walk back on the floor. We get set up. I see Lindsey Hunter come to the (scorer's) desk. I'm like 'perfect, we good. He gon get 'Sheed. Tay's gonna go to Horry. Lindsey's gonna come in and take Manu. Imma stay on Tony. Rip is on Bowen, and then we got Ben right there for Timmy, we good.' Buzzer goes off and (Lindsey) says 'Chauncey, I got you.' And I'm like 'what the hell?' I just didn't understand it. So obviously, there's no time, it's time to win the game, worry about it later. For so many reasons, it's just crazy, I didn't have any issues defensively. Not only that, what happens if the rebound comes off and your free-throw shooter's not in the game? I mean there's just so many different ... I really think, for real, I think Larry (Brown) just kinda choked in that moment. ... I don't know, that was crazy."
  • Game Six: The Pistons staved off elimination by outscoring the Spurs 49-39 in the second half to win 95-86. Hamilton's 23 led all scorers with Billups' 21 tying him with the SA tandem of Duncan and Ginobili. The victory was Detroit's first in San Antonio in eight years.
Larry Brown, who was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, was asked if Game 7 would be his last with the Pistons. "This is all about the players," he replied. "This has been an unbelievable experience for me this whole playoff run, but it's also been kind of hard because one of your dearest friends (Gregg Popovich) is coaching."
Brown reflected a bit on his career. "I've been blessed because I'm doing exactly what I've always wanted to do. So I'm hopeful that when all of this is said and done, people will say the guy cared about the sport and cared about the players he taught. I'm not an innovator, but I'm relentless in what I believe in."
Returning the focus to the final game, Ben Wallace, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, said the Pistons would have to continue to play physical against Tim Duncan. "Since he's their only real post threat, we have to beat him up, bang him, try to wear him down. We have to force him to kick the ball out (to the perimeter). We got to get him out of his comfort zone. If he catches the ball where he wants to catch it, it's going to be a long night for us."
Duncan, a man of few words, said, "I need to be assertive but not overly assertive. We're going to stick with our game plan and continue to move the ball."
Duncan had a solid finals through six games, averaging 19.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. But his decreased production in the fourth quarter of Finals games stood out. In quarters 1-3, he averaged 5.2 points per quarter. In the fourth quarter, the average fell to 4.1. He shot 46.1% from the field in quarters 1-3 but just 34.6 in the final periods.

Game Seven

  • Quarter 1
    The officials called a tight game. That, coupled with excellent defense by both teams, contributed to a low-scoring affair in which the winning team's point total was the lowest of the series.
    Ben Wallace, outplaying Tim Duncan to start the game, scored Detroit's first six points. Two Manu Ginobili left-handed jumpers from the top of the key kept the Spurs close. But the Pistons had a 10-2 run to lead 12-6, forcing Coach Popovich to call a timeout. The Spurs then went on a spurt of their own to take a 16-12 lead after Robert Horry hit one of his patented threes from the corner. After Richard Hamilton's field goal, Horry drove for a basket. Antonio McDyess closed the scoring with a jumper. Ginobili spent the last minutes on the bench with two fouls. The Spurs bench outscored the Pistons reserves 10-2 during the period.
    Spurs 18 Pistons 16

  • Quarter 2
    The nip and tuck affair continued with the largest lead by either side coming on Tayshaun Prince's early three-pointer to put the Pistons up 23-20. But a minute later, Ginobili's replacement, Tony Parker, hit a three to tie the score again. Duncan got his only two baskets early in the quarter. At one point, neither team scored for over three minutes. With Duncan resting on the bench, Ben Wallace got three dunks off great passes. On the other end, the Pistons blocked five shots. Chauncey Billlups, by far Detroit's leading scorer in the series, was held to just two free throws in the last minute of the quarter. Parker, Ginobili, and Brent Barry each hit one three to keep the Spurs close. The 77 combined points in the first half was the lowest ever in the shot-clock era of the NBA. Another shocking statistic: San Antonio had no fast-break baskets in the first half.
    Pistons 39 Spurs 38
  • Quarter 3
    It took almost two minutes before a basket was made on Hamilton's jump shot. In the meantime, Rasheed Wallace picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench. The Spurs missed their first seven shots before Parker hit a jumper with 7:24 left in the quarter. That ended a nine-point Pistons run that put them up 48-39. Duncan finally scored on a jump shot at the 6:18 mark to start a personal five-point run that closed the gap to 52-51. His next basket tied the game at 53. On the Spurs' next possession, Ginobili made the Spurs' first fast break basket of the game. Meanwhile, the Pistons went 4:21 without a field goal until Lindsey Hunter hit from 20' just before the buzzer. Duncan scored 12 of the Spurs' 21 points in the period. For only the third time in NBA history (1955 and 1962), the final game was tied after three quarters. Pistons 57 Spurs 57
  • Quarter 4
    The whole season came down to the final 12 minutes. Win the quarter and the championship is yours.
    Rasheed Wallace came back in with his four fouls. Duncan started the scoring with a dunk after a beautiful pass from Barry, whose Hall of Fame father, Rick, cheered from the stands. Rasheed sank a jumper to tie, but Ginoboli drove the lane and dunked to put the Spurs on top for good as it turned out.
    Popovich made a key substitution, sending Horry in to give Duncan a rest. Robert, whom TV analyst Hubie Brown called the "Intangible Man" because he took charges and grabbed key rebounds, hit a three-pointer from the corner to up the lead to five, 64-59. But 20 seconds later, Rasheed scored over Duncan.
    Two minutes after that, Bowen sank a 26' three-pointer after a pass from Big Tim. Rasheed kept the Pistons close with another jump shot. 67-63
    Duncan responded with a basket from 17' only to have Billups match it on a driving layup. Then Ginobili, with ice in his veins, took Duncan's outlet pass and drilled a three to make it 72-65 with 2:57 left as the Spurs fans began to smell the championship.
    After Billups made one of two free throws, the big men missed jump shots, and the teams exchanged turnovers until Chauncey's basket cut the lead to 72-68.
    Duncan sank a free throw to make it 73-68 with 1:02 to go. After a Detroit timeout, Billups missed a three and Bowen grabbed the rebound. Ginobili drove to the rim again to make it a three-possession game at 75-68 with 36 seconds left.
    But Detroit wouldn't go away. Rasheed sank a three-pointer to cut the lead to four with 23 seconds left. The Pistons had to foul, and Ginobili sank both. 77-71
    Rasheed missed his next three pointer, and Horry hit two free throws to remove all doubt: 79-71 with 17 seconds left.
    Hamilton converted a three-point play after a foolish foul by Parker, but Ginobili extended the Spurs' free throw streak to six to close out the scoring.

Larry Brown and Chauncey Billups

Ronald Dupree tries to block a shot.

Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan try to block Billups' shot.

Ben Wallace battles Duncan for a rebound.

Horry shoots over Ben Wallace.

Ginobili maneuvers around Wallace.

Coach Popovich talks to his team.

Ginobili shoots over Tayshaun Prince.

Horry dunks.

Richard Hamilton shoots over Bruce Bowen.

Horry hits Game 5 winner.

Ginobili soars for one of his driving dunks.

Hamilton blocks Ginobili.

Duncan tries to stop Rasheed.

Duncan and Ginobili rejoice.

Player Min FG2 FG3 FT Rebs Ast Stl Blk TOV Fouls Points
Richard Hamilton 46 6-18 0-2 3-4 8 1 0 2 1 3 15
Tayshaun Prince 41 4-3 1-4 0-0 2 1 2 0 1 1 9
Chauncey Billups 39 3-8 0-3 7-8 4 8 1 0 1 4 13
Ben Wallace 38 6-10 0-0 0-2 11 1 2 2 0 5 12
Rasheed Wallace 27 5-10 1-4 0-0 1 1 2 1 1 5 11
Antonio McDyess 24 5-7 0-0 0-0 7 2 0 2 2 4 10
Lindsey Hunter 21 2-8 0-1 0-0 1 2 1 0 0 2 4
Elden Campbell 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Total 240 31-74 2-14 10-14 34 17 8 6 6 24 74
Player Min FG2 FG3 FT Rebs Ast Stl Blk TOV Fouls Points
Tim Duncan 42 10-27 0-0 5-6 11 3 0 2 5 2 25
Bruce Bowen 40 2-4 1-1 0-0 0 4 4 1 0 5 5
Tony Parker 38 3-11 1-3 1-2 2 3 0 0 1 4 8
Manu Ginobili 35 8-13 2-2 5-5 5 4 1 0 3 3 23
Nazr Mohammed 21 0-3 0-0 0-0 7 0 0 2 0 3 0
Robert Horry 33 4-7 2-4 5-6 5 1 1 1 1 1 15
Brent Barry 29 2-3 1-1 0-0 4 2 2 1 2 2 5
Devin Brown 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 240 29-68 7-11 16-19 38 14 4 7 13 20 81
Tim Duncan was voted the Most Valuable Player of the Series to give him three trophies for his career.


Spurs Locker Room

  • Coach Popovich became the fifth coach to win at least three titles, joining Phil Jackson as the only ones to win their first three NBA finals. "We just played a great team. I don't know how the hell we did it, but I am thrilled. I probably did some good things, and I probably made some mistakes." He praised the Pistons' coach. "I wouuldn't be standing here if it wasn't for Larry Brown. He's the best."
  • While Duncan was reticent and reluctant late in Games 5 and 6, he was assertive and aggressive in Game 7, leading all scorers with 25 points and matching Ben Wallace with 11 rebounds. "My teammates were more confident in me than I was. They just started coming at me. I got one to fall. Then I got two to fall. And then I started getting some double-teams and opening it up." Tim added, "This team has so many different MVPs."
  • Ginobili scored 23 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and didn't commit a turnover. Asked if he felt pressure, Manu replied, "I really didn't feel it that much. I was so focused and concentrated on trying to do the right thing that I didn't even knowwhat was going on around me. I just looked at the clock and tried to make the right decision."
  • Horry on his coach: "The great thing about Pop is he yells at everybody. Most guys won't yell at their superstars. They'll wait and do it behind closed doors. Pop doesn't care. He doesn't get enough credit for how talented he is. He just does his thing." On the series MVP: "Tim came out aggressive. We only go as far as Tim takes us. But this was tough. Those guys battled back hard."

Pistons Locker Room

  • Coach Brown: "I'm just as proud this year as I was last year. The better team won. We got it to seven games, and we had a chance. We got a lead, got a little careless, [they] got the crowd back in the game, and then they made plays." Reminded that San Antonio made 7 of 11 3-pointers while his club missed 12 of 14, Brown replied, "That is the game in my mind."
    Asked if this was his last game after 33 years of coaching, Larry answered, "I really don't want to think about that. If it happens, I have a young family. I have a lot of neat things that have happened to me because of coaching. I am sure I will be doing some coaching in some capacity. I want to help the game."
  • Billups: "When they needed to make plays, they did. They went out and earned it." Chauncey, who had some early run-ins with Coach Brown, was asked if he thought this would be Larry's last game. "I've learned so much personally from him about this game, about my game, that it's priceless really. I don't anticipate it being over for him, but if it is, it's going to be a dark day in the NBA."
Participants in the 2005 NBA Finals who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame:
: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili
Pistons: Coach Larry Brown
2004-05 San Antonio Spurs