SAN ANTONIO (AP) – The identity of the next NBA champion will not be known for another two days – not until Game 7 of a suddenly suspenseful series is over.

Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and the Detroit Pistons weren’t ready to concede their title, and Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs weren’t quite good enough to earn it Tuesday night.

Behind the scoring of their guards and several clutch plays from foul-plagued Rasheed Wallace down the stretch, the defending champions displayed the resiliency they’ve become known for as they defeated San Antonio 95-86 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to send the championship series will to a winner-take-all game for the first time since 1994.

Billups made five of the Pistons’ eight 3-pointers as they matched their long-range output from the first five games combined. Billups scored 21, Hamilton had 23 and Wallace 16 for the Pistons, who played at their peak despite being on the brink of elimination – just as they did in the Eastern Conference finals against Miami earlier this month.

Coach Larry Brown won an NBA playoff game for the 100th time as an NBA coach, breaking a tie with Red Auerbach for third-most in league history, shaking hands with and hugging Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as the game ended.

There were 23 lead changes and seven ties in the first three quarters before Detroit built a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter and stayed ahead the rest of the way, handing the Spurs just their sixth home loss in 51 games at the SBC Center this season.

Now, the Pistons will have to try to become the first team in finals history to win the last two games on the road. But given what they’ve done over the past two seasons, refusing to quit when circumstances are most dire, they have to be considered a legitimate candidate to make a little more history.

“We can fight any odds. You know, a lot of people thought we were going to be out tonight, but – they had their Cristal ready and all that stuff, but – hey, we’re going to pop it Thursday.”

Once again, ball control was one of the key factors as Detroit committed just five turnovers against 19 assists. Billups played brilliantly for the second straight game, and Hamilton was not affected by the tight defense of Bruce Bowen.

“We’re just tough as nails,” Billups said. “Our motto is, If it ain’t rough, it ain’t right.’ We always make it tough on ourselves, but we always find a way to climb out of that foxhole.”

Duncan had 21 points and 15 rebounds, but the Spurs’ offense rarely ran though him as it normally does so fluidly. Manu Ginobili also scored 21 for San Antonio, which was outscored 24-19 in the fourth quarter.

AP-ES-06-22-05 0002EDT


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.