-- Four games into the NBA Finals, it's difficult to find a signature moment for which this series will be remembered. Was it San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili's acrobatic ad-libs in Game 1? The Detroit Pistons' pouting, kicking and screaming in Game 2? Pistons center Ben Wallace bouncing up and down for blocks, rebounds and dunks in Game 3? Or the Spurs beaten so badly in Game 4 that the usually even-keel Tim Duncan looked like he'd keel over as his coach, Gregg Popovich, rubbed his leg on the bench to console him?
At no point in this series, which is tied at two games apiece entering Sunday's Game 5, has there been any suspense, no dramatic clutch baskets or a classic test of wills because the games have usually been decided before the fourth quarter was half-over. These were supposed to be two evenly matched, defensive-minded, ball-sharing teams. But the problem has been only one team has shown up at a time. So, without a signature moment, this series simply has been defined by one word: blowout (and that has nothing to do with Wallace's unkempt mane).
For the first time in the NBA Finals, the first four games have been decided by at least 15 points.
"I'm very surprised by that," Popovich said. "I would have thought coming in that it's going to be in the fourth quarter and it's going to be 78-76, whoever doesn't turn it over or makes a shot in the last couple of minutes is going to win the game. I'm very surprised the way the play has been through the first four games."
The Spurs won Game 1 by 15 points and, after they beat the Pistons, 97-76, in Game 2, Popovich said he felt uncomfortable shaking hands with his friend and mentor, Pistons Coach Larry Brown.
"It sounds weird, it sounds strange, but when we won the first two games, sure, I was thrilled about it and I wouldn't give them back, but when I saw Coach, it was like, 'How you doing, Coach?'" Popovich said, lowering his head. "No real words come out. You just sort of mumble, because you feel bad for the other guy."
The Pistons won Game 3 by 17 points and, after the Spurs lost, 102-71, in Game 4, Popovich walked up to Brown and said, "Now I know how you felt in 1 and 2."
Brown has also been perplexed by the lopsided proceedings.
"I cannot explain what's happened," he said. "Maybe Game 3 I could say, hey, it was a desperate situation for us, and maybe San Antonio could have thought it might have been too easy. But knowing Pop and knowing what they are about, I had no idea we could win Game 4 like we did."
The disparity in the four games has been startling. The Spurs averaged 90.5 points, shot 44.7 percent (63 of 141) and had 35 assists to 30 turnovers in the first two games. They have averaged 75 points, shot 40.1 percent (55 of 137) and had 31 assists to 36 turnovers (which have led to 48 points for the Pistons) in the past two games. The Pistons averaged 72.5 points, shot 39 percent (62 of 159) and had 32 assists to 27 turnovers in the first two games. They averaged 99 points, shot 46.3 percent (81 of 175) and had 45 assists to 16 turnovers in the past two games.
Spurs forward Robert Horry said the difference in the series has been location. Because neither team has won on the other's home floor this season, the home court certainly has had an effect. The Spurs got 21 of their 59 regular season wins away from SBC Center, while the Pistons went 22-19 away from the Palace of Auburn Hills in the regular season.
"Of course, we didn't think the series was over after the first two games," said Ginobili, who has averaged just nine points in the past two games after averaging 26.5 points in the first two. "We knew it was going to be very hard here. What we didn't know was that it was going to be so hard, because they are really killing us. These last two games were just embarrassing."
Wallace said the difference has been energy.
"I wish I could say it's this or it's that. Man, it's just the energy everybody brings," Wallace said. "We're not playing the perfect game in no way, shape or form, but everybody is playing so hard. So if one guy makes a mistake and everybody else is on the same page, they are able to make up for those mistakes."
Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups said Wallace has been the most valuable player of the series because of the "emotion and energy he brings."
Wallace has been especially spry in the past two games, as he has averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks and combined with Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess to take Duncan out of his comfort zone. Ben Wallace averaged just seven points and 7.5 rebounds in Texas.
Billups said Wallace needed some time to fully recover from a grueling seven-game series against the Miami Heat.
"I mean, you've got to understand, this guy has come off of playing seven games of battling Shaq, you know what I mean?" Billups said.
Brown said the past two wins against the Spurs, especially Game 4, were "tough for me because of Pop."
"And you bought that?" Popovich said. Brown "felt bad for me personally, but he's not going to give [the wins] back, you know."
Popovich was then asked if he cared how badly he beat Brown. He laughed and said: "I want to beat him by 50. The hell with him."