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96 Minutes In

Last season’s epic NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs got a remix and is currently tied at one game a piece with a critical.  This year’s rematch between the league’s top two teams is shaping up to be as good or better than last season’s 7 game masterpiece.  Both games in San Antonio were mirroring images of each other.  Game 1 saw the Heat more in control throughout most of the game with the Spurs using a bit of luck (LeBron James’ muscle cramps) to propel them to victory1.  Roles were reversed in Game 2 as the Spurs lead most of the way and luck coming the Heat’s way (Tony Parker and Tim Duncan missing 4 free throws).

These teams are evenly matched2 and it is a privilege to watch them battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Based on the first two games it’s nearly impossible to say which team has the advantage for the remainder of the series, though someone has been predicting the Spurs since the season started.  Instead here a few quick takeaways from Games 1 & 2:

  • The King is still the King – Yes, Kevin Durant was a deserving MVP for the regular season and, yes, James is still the world’s best player.  We covered “crampgate” and the ensuing fallout in our last episode.  In case you were paying attention, he was the best player on the court until he was forced to sit out the last 4 minutes of Game 1.  It’s not a small coincidence that the Spurs late 4th quarter surge came after James was carried off the court.  James responded to the ridiculous criticism by being transcendent yet again in Game 2.  As if for shits and giggles he did it in a variety of ways.  From attacking the lane in the 1st quarter, hero ball jump shots in the 3rd and, finally his likely favorite, making the right play by finding an open Chris Bosh for the go ahead 3 pt shot.  I can’t wait to see what LeBron has in store for us next.
  • The Claw – Kawhi Leonard was brilliant in last season’s Finals and many believe he will be the face of the Spurs once Duncan retires.  These two games have been somewhat rough the stone faced wingman.  Leonard’s been plagued by foul trouble in both games and gets the tough task of being the primary defender on James.  Having to expend an enormous amount of energy defending James has probably lead to his underwhelming performance on the offensive end.  Leonard has totaled 18 pts on 6-14 FGs and 2 rebounds thus far.  Those numbers don’t exactly shout out at you.  He’s still, at worst, the Spurs’ second best two-way player and they’ll need him to have a bigger impact to be successful.
  • Gray Haired Contributors – Chris pointed out that during their Finals’ fun, Miami always seems to find a way to get older, seemingly washed up players to contribute in major ways.  Whether it was Ray Allen, Shane Battier or Mike Miller, the veteran players that have filled out the Heat’s lineup have always come through.  This year it’s looking like that player will be Rashard Lewis.  Lewis is far from the player he used to be and his role has been so small that sometimes I forgot he was still in the league let alone on the Heat roster.  However, since being dusted off and inserted in the starting lineup in the Eastern Conference finals he’s made an impact.  He’s totaled 24 pts on 5-13 3PT’s and is on his way to being the Heat’s unsung hero should they go on to win the title.
  • Return of the Catch Phrase – Mark Jackson didn’t take a break after being fired by the Golden State Warriors.  Instead, he immediately reached a multiyear agreement with ESPN and rejoined the broadcasting team of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy.  The back and forth banter between Jackson and his former head coach is enjoyable and even funny at times.  Jackson also dusted off his familiar catch phrases such as “Hand down, man down” even if he hasn’t always used them at the appropriate times.  Even after a 3 year absence from the broadcasting table Jackson’s catch phrases are in danger of growing stale.  He might want to get together with Dwayne Johnson and come up with some new ones
  1. Every NBA Champion has had good fortune, luck or things going their way.
  2. In the 9 Finals games played thus far, a grand total of 18 points separate the two teams.

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