Sure, the purists appreciate the defensive rotations, the way Detroit protects the rim, how Bowen fights through screens and everything else. But we're headed in a dangerous direction and have been for 3-4 years now – at the highest level, the good defenses are too good, and smart teams (like the Pistons and Spurs) have figured out how to use bumping/bodying/clutching/grabbing to their advantage. So that puts the game in the hands of the referees, the vast majority of whom range from "mediocre" to "impossibly incompetent." Other than the Phoenix games, this entire playoffs has been one long continuous foul/non-foul followed by someone complaining about what was/wasn't called. What's fun about that?

Anyone who maintains this is "good basketball" comes off like a film school grad expounding the merits of a Todd Solondz movie – yes, we see your point and respect it, but the bottom line is that major movie studios aren't paying the bills on Todd Solondz movies (and this is coming from a guy who loved "Happiness"). ABC's ratings have plummeted for these Finals, partly because of the lack of an absorbing superstar (sadly, the Sampras Corollary still applies to Duncan), partly because this style of play isn't enjoyable for casual fans or even semi-hard-core fans. There are eerie similarities to the 2005 NBA Finals and 1995 NHL finals right now (when the Devils unveiled that deathly zone trap). And I'm not saying that the Mavs-Suns series was the answer or anything; I'm just looking for something in between. Give me good defense, give me good offense, give me a few guys stepping up and rising to the occasion. That's all I'm asking. If it happened in Game 5, it can happen again in Game 7. I can dream.

Some lingering questions heading into Thursday night …

• How could the Spurs be dumb enough to plan a parade before finishing off a team that A) was the defending champs, B) had already come through in a must-win on the road two weeks ago, and C) took enough pride in its crown that the players carry around fake championship belts? As soon as Al Michaels mentioned this parade before Game 6, everyone who wagered on the Spurs probably had a collective heart attack. Whaaaaaaaaat? They did whaaaaaaaaaat? Didn't they know what happened in the 1969 Finals, when the Lakers were dumb enough to make similar plans before knocking off Russell and the Celtics? Inexcusably dumb.

• Speaking of dumb, how could I be dumb enough to write two-thirds of today's column on Tuesday afternoon, gearing it around a question ("Where do the 2005 Spurs rank among the championship teams from the past 25 years?") that hadn't officially become a question yet? Just my luck – the Spurs blow the game and I have to start a new column from scratch at 9 at night. Even had to put pants on for the requisite coffee run, just so I would have enough caffeine in my system to finish the column. And now I have this 1,700-word, two-thirds-of-a-column column that's completely irrelevant. The lesson, as always … well, you know already.



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