A lot of the country’s basketball fans weren’t focused on the NBA last night. In fact, most of the attention was put on the game at the collegiate level. There were some marquee match ups featuring what figures to be three of the next superstars in the NBA. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch much of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky mostly because i’d rather watch my Mavericks. I don’t have much interest in basketball at the college level unless it involves joining a pool for brackets come March. Chances are that Wiggins, Parker and Randle will all be great players at the NBA level but until I actually see it, let’s pump the breaks and worry about what’s actually going on at the NBA level. Who’s dominating the league so far in this early season? So far this season, the Pacers have looked like the most dominant team in the league on a nightly basis. The defense and coaching is going to be there without a doubt. That’s one of the staples of Indiana’s game. But let’s add Paul George, second in a lot of early MVP races, who is continuing to play at the level everyone expects him to after his performance in last season’s playoffs. Let’s also look at the bench, much improved during the offseason and it shows on a nightly basis. Their offense still looks a bit stale sometimes but it’s not a glaring problem, just their style of basketball. What’s also interesting is that Danny Granger is set to return to his first game sooner than later. How will that affect a Pacers team that’s off to a franchise best 8-0 and the only undefeated team left in the league? I can’t imagine the train stopping anytime soon. Their schedule gets a little more challenging in the next few weeks but I could see them winning out the rest of the month barring an upset. The real challenge for this great Pacers team comes in December when their month starts with a five road games in 8 days against some of the top teams in the western conference, followed by the Heat at home. Until then let’s just enjoy what they’ve currently doing because despite getting almost no attention, the Pacers are the best team this season so far.
Speaking of no attention, the Spurs just seem to do what they do every single year. Play good basketball and win games. Right now they’re 7-1 and atop the western conference and I don’t know anyone who would bet some serious money on San Antonio giving up that position. Who would take their position if they slip for a few games? Well the obvious answer is OKC, especially now that Russell Westbrook is back and continues to look healthier as the games go by. To no one’s surprise, Durant leads the league in scoring (30.2/gm) but it’s going to rest of the supporting cast that I feel will ultimately make a difference. How the rest of the west shakes out is going to be fascinating to watch. From the Suns (how are they still there?) on down to the Lakers, all of those teams will be fighting for 3 through 8. Out east it continues to look like only the Heat will keep up with the Pacers, at least until Rose and the Bulls get themselves together and are 100% healthy. Most impressive players this season? These are aside from the obvious ones like LeBron or Durant. I’d have to go with either Kevin Love and Anthony Davis. Love finally looks healthy again, second in scoring behind Durant and leading the league in rebounding. And with Anthony Davis, well I think we’re all being reminded why he was the consensus #1 overall pick just a couple years ago.
The 2013 NBA Finals will go down as a classic. Game 6 was clearly the apex with it’s endless amount of memorable moments but last night’s game 7 certainly lived up to the quality of the rest of the series. Both teams looked exactly how many expected: having battled through a crazy series only to settle it all with a final 7th game. The Spurs showed lots of heart all the way to the finish but it was simply Miami’s night and the Heat walked away with the championship trophy. Of course there are things you can point out about the Spurs’ approach and game plan (daring LeBron and Wade to shoot) but it was never a question of effort or wanting it less than the Heat. With less than a minute left in the game and the chance to tie, Duncan missed a shot in the lane that he’s made thousands of times. I found it impossible not feel bad for Duncan after he missed that shot. Uncanny and unfortunate for San Antonio but it was the shot that sealed their fate as the second place team. Manu Ginobili is the easy scapegoat for this loss but Danny Green’s normally efficient shot from behind the arc was nowhere to be found. Also, those were some REALLY questionable play calls by Popovich towards the end of the game. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Spurs. Well, if Kawhi Leonard can make his free throws, then the young man looks to have all the tools of being a future all-star and potentially a superstar. Nothing but respect from myself and NBA fans around the world for the Spurs in their loss.
Unfortunately for Heat haters around the country (there are a lot) it was Miami’s night, repeating as champions of the NBA and are once again kings of the basketball world. LeBron James was phenomenal (37 pts, 12 reb, 4 ast) and was awarded the Finals MVP for a second straight year. But even though James was the best player on the court last night, Dwyane Wade came up big with his shooting from the floor and Shane Battier got hot from behind the arc to add more scoring. Miami taking advantage of the shooting opportunities given to them was the stuff of champions and it was enough to take home the title. Who’s the happiest about winning the title? Well, obviously the teammates winning their first title but even more that guy named Chris Bosh. Zero points last night Bosh? Are you kidding me? Bosh was clearly going to be the target of all targets to blame had Miami not been able to win last night’ game. Hind sight though, as the celebration continues in South Beach and now going forward the word “dynasty” starts to be thrown around. It’s a little early for that because I think that a team needs to win at least three titles in 4-5 years to be considered a true dynasty. Remember that LeBron was VERY close to being 1-3 in the Finals with another summer of questions so let’s calm down for a second and continue to celebrate or hate on this Miami Heat team. We have all summer to discuss and debate the long term implications.
Regardless of whether it’s football, soccer, basketball or American politics, Claudia Romani likes to show her team some support! The always-sultry model was seen showing her Miami Heat spirit as she catwalked around the boardwalk driving dudes crazy (as usual).
I’m not pulling for anybody in particular, but it would nice to see an upset just so that all the LBJ haters in the press can come out of hiding. At the end of the day, we all know David Stern won’t allow the Spurs to win on his watch, so look for Duncan to get benched in the last minutes so that Miami can pull ahead for the win! Any other conspiracy theories out there?
while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
Where do I even begin to discuss last night’s game? We’ll defer to LeBron James on this one, quoted as saying “It’s by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” after his triple-double performance led the Heat to a crazy victory in overtime. As always in these situations, I have to ask: was this more of a Spurs loss or a Heat win? All signs point to the fact that the Spurs had this game, had it on two occasions. First it was during the 3rd quarter, holding a 12 point lead with only 1 minute left in the quarter and a chance to really put a strangle on the game in the 4th. The second time was of course in the final minute following two incredibly clutch plays by Tony Parker who, up to that point, was having a less than stellar game. I thought to myself “Wow…that’s the game, Parker has the MVP” but then all hell broke loose and like the rest of the series, no one could predict what happened. Poor Kawhi Leonard, he had the dunk of the night right over (one shoe) Mike Miller but couldn’t complete the two most important points of the night. Then the game essentially came down to a couple of offensive rebounds by Miami, resulting in massive 3s by both LeBron and Ray Allen. Allen’s 3 to tie the game was the most clutch shot of the year.
From Tim Duncan’s incredible first half (feels like a wasted effort now) to LeBron’s choice to ignore his headband and essentially go beast mode in the 4th quarter. An incredible game all around but a part of me can’t help but feel that it was the Spurs best opportunity to win the series. Can the Spurs win game 7 on the road? History says they can’t, the last time a team to win the NBA title on the road in a game 7 was the Washington Bullets in 1978. But I can’t put anything above this Spurs team. Or above this series because it’s simply been too unpredictable and every game has something new in store for the fans. Neither team can win two in a row. If the Spurs want to win the game, they’re going to have to set the tone early. Oh yeah, Manu Ginobili: stop turning the ball over at the most critical points in the game. Was Ginobili fouled on that final possession in the lane with a couple of seconds left in OT? Probably but I know this league too well to not expect the officials to make a call there. Certainly more of a foul than the Chris Bosh block to the end the game on the desperation 3 by Danny Green. I’m sticking with my prediction (winner of game 6 wins the series) but at the same time, i’ve learned that the sky is the limit for this series.
while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
Can anyone correctly predict what’s going to happen in this series? It’s been back and forth, neither team can win twice in a row. So are things going to change now that the Spurs are one win away? The Spurs looked brilliant on offense last night. Especially towards the end of the 3rd quarter and heading into the 4th when Miami was making their comeback but then the next thing you know, San Antonio is up by nearly 20. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were great, Danny Green (breaking records) and Kawhi Leonard shot incredibly well but the difference this game was Manu Ginobili. Much like Wade before game 4, Ginobili was facing heavy criticism for being pretty much a non-factor this series. The Spurs shooting guard (back in the starting five) responded with a 24 point, 10 assist performance. Maybe he spoke to Lionel Messi before the game? Whatever the case was, last night Ginobili looked like the all-star guard from the years past.
Miami didn’t have a terrible performance last night, they managed to score over 100 points, but their defense was questionable throughout the game. Ray Allen’s defense on Green was frustrating to watch. And while LeBron had a nice stat line (25 pts, 6 reb, 8 ast), he did look frustrated because the Spurs made it difficult for him to score. So now the burning question is: how will the Heat respond with their back against the wall? Bryan’s Lakers were able to win the title after losing game 5 back in the 2010 Finals but even then, the numbers back the Spurs. Even without the fact that they’re so good at closing out a series on the road. Game 6 has all the makings of a crazy LeBron performance (down 2-3 against Boston last year) because as we’ve seen all year long, Miami is at it’s best after a critical loss. It’s just been so rare to see them lose this often as of late. I’m going with the Spurs because they have the experience and type of team that will close out a series but I can’t wait to see how this Heat team responds on their home court.
Once again, after a critical loss, the Heat respond in their usual fashion and win the following game by a significant margin. Game 4 actually looked like a pretty even game until the 4th quarter when the Heat were led by their two best players and finished strong to tie the series at 2-2. Where did this Dywane Wade come from? Wade had been pretty bad throughout the series, making people wonder just how serious his injury is or if he’s closer to the end of his prime than was predicted. LeBron was also great (33 pts, 11 reb, 4 ast) but Wade stepping up (32 pts) to answer the critics was the difference for Miami. Even though the Spurs came out strong to start the game (8 point lead in the 1st) it was the Heat controlling the rest of the game, mostly with their defense. Miami was able to force some bad shots by San Antonio and couple that with Tony Parker’s limited action in the second half meant all the momentum was on the Heat’s side. Parker had a great first half, slicing the Heat’s defense but the second half was a different story as the point guard went scoreless after halftime. The fourth quarter was entirely Miami’s and the Spurs’ supporting cast wasn’t able to do anything to stop the Heat’s offense.
So it’s apparent that Parker’s hamstring injury is going limit him but who else on the Spurs is going to step up? That’s probably the biggest question for San Antonio heading into a massive game 5 on Sunday. You’ll hear it all weekend: the team who wins game 5 will in the series. Now, it’s not a forgone conclusion but the math (83% success rate) certainly backs the team who is victorious. So which team has the advantage heading into Sunday’s game? Well momentum favors the Heat but as we’ve seen in this series, there hasn’t be a team to win two in a row. Both teams are trading punches and are showing that they can win it all, it’s just a matter of which team steps it for that particular night. Before the series started, I thought it was going to a deciding 7th game and that certainly holds true. It’s going at least six and i’m glad that we’re seeing such a great series so far. Even if most of the games have been won by large margins, it’s still obvious that these are the two best teams in basketball and bringing their “A” games. I’m going with the stats on this one and saying that the winner of game 5 will win the series but we’ll have to wait and see.
Side note: Forgive me for not posting after game 3. It was certainly worth discussing but unfortunately i’m dealing with a family emergency at the moment. I’ve already informed Moe that my availability for the rest of the series is questionable at this time but i’m trying to remain positive. I appreciate the patience.
The Heat bounced back nicely, even if it did take them until the 3rd quarter to assert their dominance. The Miami Heat used a strong second half to blow out the Spurs, evening the series at 1 before it heads back to San Antonio. Things looked pretty even for the first half, neither team looked like the more confident team. Even though LeBron James ended up with a great game (17pts, 8reb, 6 ast) it wasn’t until the 3rd quarter that he looked dominant. And even then, he wasn’t the Heat’s leading man scoring wise. Mario Chalmers (19 pts) led Miami’s scoring and his pick-n-roll with LeBron really seemed to throw the Spurs off. That and Miami’s defense on the Spurs’ most important players. The Heat double teamed Tony Parker (13 pts, 5 ast) very effectively, forcing him into some uncharacteristic mistakes on offense. In fact the entire Spurs team was off, committing 17 turnovers after just 4 in the first game. Tim Duncan almost put up yet another double-double but wasn’t very effective on offense, going 3 for 13 from the field. That was in part due to Miami offense but one can’t help but notice that maybe Duncan’s age is preventing him from being consistent on a nightly basis. The Spurs supporting cast (i’m looking at you Ginobili) has to play better when the Heat attempt to play lock-down defense.
Great defense? LeBron’s block on Duncan looked like it was going to be his best defensive play of the night. But then LeBron’s block on Thiago Splitter happened and well, i’m sure the internet memes are flowing as I write this. It’s the type of play that’s going to be remembered as the Finals go on, much like Tony Parker’s buzzer beater in game 1. So each team has a memorable play for a top 10 and each team has a win as the series heads back to San Antonio for three in a row. Does anyone actually like the 2-3-2 format of the Finals? I know it’s supposed to be for “travel reasons” because of the distances between cities in each conference but the Spurs played the Warriors this year, a much longer trip than Miami. The NBA needs to change the Finals to match the rest of the playoffs. Anyway, as the series heads back to Texas, did Miami steal all the momentum from the Spurs? A 1-1 split is usually very much accepted by the road team but how did such a big loss affect San Antonio? It’s going to be interesting how a very well coached and experienced team like the Spurs responds when it’s home for a good while. For some reason I have a feeling this series goes 7 games but it’s a bit early to tell so we’ll have to wait and see.
Jason Kidd retired from the NBA last week and will finish as one of the best point guards of all time. Here’s a look back at his career:
while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
As last night’s game was going on, I couldn’t help but feel that Spurs were just waiting for the right moment to strike. Taking the Heat’s punches with the type of poise that you’d expect from a rested, experienced veteran squad that has been there and done that. Sure, it’s been six years since the Spurs were in the Finals but it looked like another routine win last night. LeBron’s triple-double wasn’t enough for Miami as San Antonio used a strong 4th quarter to come from behind and steal game 1 of the Finals. The Spurs actually showed a bit of rust, not rest, during most of the 1st quarter but Miami wasn’t able to completely take control of the game. Tim Duncan started 0 for 5 from the field but then bounced back greatly, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Duncan was the anchor for the Spurs but the spark was clearly Tony Parker and even though Parker’s stat line (21 pts, 6 ast) wasn’t great, he was a match up nightmare for the Heat all night long. Anytime the Heat were trying to extended their lead (up by 7 in the 3rd) there was Parker, making a big play to keep the Spurs in the game. Honestly, I have no idea how Parker got this shot off to clinch the game. Then came the 4th quarter and the Spurs experience took over while Miami seemed a bit fatigued, looking every bit like a team that had just been through a tough 7-game series.
So what must the Heat do to avoid a deadly 0-2 hole? For starters, Chris Bosh can’t be taking 3-point shots from that part of the arc in a clutch situation. If i’m on defense, I can live with Bosh shooting a 3 from anywhere that’s not the corner of the floor. LeBron certainly did everything that he could (18 pts, 18 reb, 10 ast) but when it came to the 4th quarter, he had very little support. Dwyane Wade actually had a good game up to that point but was held to 0 points in the 4th while Bosh only had 2 in the period. Was fatigue the greatest factor for Miami during that period? The Spurs make teams work for the points and don’t beat themselves. Yes, San Antonio had a bit of luck with that Parker shot but then again, the Spurs put themselves in the lead on that possession. Miami was leading throughout the game but when it mattered most, the Spurs experience and their superior coaching was evident. If I had to bet, i’d say that Miami bounces back but it’ll be interesting how they do it. Will we see a masterful performance by LeBron? This series has the potential to be a classic one. Stay tuned.
I love these micro-movies that the NBA has on their YouTube channel. I just wish they’d do them for the conference finals or even earlier in the playoffs.