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
Every NBA Champion has had good fortune, luck or things going their way.
In the 9 Finals games played thus far, a grand total of 18 points separate the two teams.
This week special guest host Jason McAdams joined us to discuss our reactions from Game 1 of the NBA Finals, our predictions on how the rest of the series will play out, and the fall out from LeBron James’ muscle cramps in the 4th quarter. Enjoy.
This week we took a look at the many questions facing the Indiana Pacers following their playoff exit, the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, and a potential Finals rematch between the Heat and Spurs.
It’s painfully obvious to anyone with two eyes and a league pass subscription that the Miami Heat suck at tanking. Their big three are deeply committed to winning, fighting through injury and overcoming ennui to grit out one of the best records in the league after having won the last two NBA titles. Despite signing head cases and draft busts, and filling up his cap space with onerous contracts Pat Riley can’t seem to stop his team from winning. If Riley was half the GM that David Kahn was he’d have crippled his team with aging vets, disinterested journeyman and mediocre draft picks, and begun Riggin’ for Wiggins, but it appears that Riley just doesn’t have the competitive spirit necessary to truly bottom out a professional sports team in the name of improvement. Continue reading →
After a surprising Friday night in the NBA, we went in deep on the Heat, Nets, and Lakers, lamented the increasing number of key injuries around the league, analyzed the Andrew Bynum/Luol Deng trade, and ripped into JR Smith.
01:45 – How worried should the Heat be about losing to bad teams?
10:20 – How excited should the Nets be about five game winning streak?
16:10 – Has Mike D’Antoni lost control of the Lakers?
The second half of our special two-part episode – check out part one here – features Lamont and Chris discussing Kobe Bryant’s latest injury, the Kendrick Perkins/Joakim Noah spat, NBA rivalries, the Houston Rockets’ onslaught of the three-point line, a new rule named after Antoine Walker, and so much more.
There’s no question that since Michael Jordan the league has been transformed into a perimeter players’ league. With the exceptions of Hakeem, Shaq and perhaps Yao Ming, the most influential players of the last 20 years have all played on the perimeter: Jordan, Kobe, TMac, Vince Carter, Grant Hill, AI, DWade, Carmelo, and LeBron James. Even 7 footers who might previously have played with their backs to the basket now move more like George Gervin than they do like Patrick Ewing. Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, and Kevin Durant are three great examples of the way perception of the 7 footer has evolved over the last decade.
But the dominance of the perimeter player doesn’t mean that the center position is without value. Despite the faddish popularity of “small ball”, the traditional style of basketball with a dominant center is still incredibly effective. Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert play more traditional center roles and are highly successful at it. So here are five up-and-coming centers to keep an eye on as they use the ’13-’14 season as they springboard into success. Continue reading →