SAN ANTONIO (AP) – As soon as Ben Wallace flung away his headband in disgust, Game 1 of the NBA Finals got away from the defending champion Detroit Pistons, too.

Manu Ginobili started the game’s decisive surge by bowling over Wallace early in the fourth quarter, a play that led to a blocking foul and a technical on Wallace that started the San Antonio Spurs on their way.

Ginobili’s free throw on the technical began a 19-4 run that put San Antonio ahead by 17, and Ginobili added a dunk and a 3-pointer to stave off Detroit’s subsequent rally as the Spurs defeated Detroit 84-69 Thursday night.

Ginobili had an awesome second half, especially in the fourth quarter when his drives into the lane produced several impressive baskets. Ginobili shot 9-for-10 in the second half and led all scorers with 26 points.

“I struggled in the first half so I was very upset. I tried to come back with more energy and more aggressiveness,” Ginobili said.

Tim Duncan added 24 points and 17 rebounds and Tony Parker scored 15 points for the Spurs, who recovered from an early 13-point deficit to win the opener of the series — only the third time in NBA history the past two champions have squared off in the finals.Ginobili shot 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter to help San Antonio outscore the Pistons 29-16 over the final 12 minutes.

Neither team scored more than 20 points in any of the first three quarters.

The point total tied for the fourth-lowest in the finals in the shot clock era.

San Antonio began to pull away after Wallace was called for the technical foul for ripping off his headband and complaining after he was called for the blocking foul when he thought it should have been a charge on Ginobili.

It was 74-57 before Detroit had a 10-0 run to quiet the Spurs’ home crowd, but Ginobili brought them back to life by driving the lane for a left-handed dunk and then knocking down a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left.

Chauncey Billups scored 25 points to lead the Pistons.

The Pistons’ length bothered the Spurs right from the start, with Rasheed Wallace able to poke the ball away for two steals in the first 6 minutes as the Pistons opened a 13-4 lead. Duncan had a turnover, a missed dunk and a bobbled shot attempt before he made his first basket, clearly bothered by Rasheed Wallace’s defense.

A blocked shot by Billups – yes, even the point guard was altering shots – led to a breakaway layup by Hamilton for a 17-4 lead. The Spurs pulled to 20-17 by the end of the first quarter and tied the game 33-33 31/2 minutes before halftime.

“We knew it was going to be like this; these guys are a heck of a defensive squad,” Duncan said. “That’s what you saw in that first half. I think we all started out with a little bit of jitters … I missed a dunk and stuff like that. Just had to have the game start coming to me. Once we started going there, everybody got comfortable and I think we got through it.”

San Antonio finally went ahead when Duncan rebounded Bruce Bowen’s airball and dropped it in for a 42-41 lead, and the Spurs stayed ahead for the rest of the third quarter and took a 55-51 lead into the fourth.

Notes: The national anthem was sung by pop singer Alanis Morissette, a recently naturalized American by way of Canada. Bryan Adams, who’s still Canadian, performed at halftime. … Glenn Robinson, who did not play in the Western Conference finals, was one of the first Spurs off the bench and led the team with three blocks.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.