June 4th, 2013 - NBA Finals - News and Notes
We've seen this before. Haven't we?
Tim Duncan vs. LeBron James for the NBA Championship.
Only this time, James comes into it with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a whole cast of solid role players, that have propelled the Heat to where they're at now, with the chance to repeat as NBA Champions.
Then with Cleveland, James' "Big Three" consisted of himself, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden. Too a lesser degree Sasha Pavlovic and Larry Hughes were the Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers of this Miami Heat team. Then somewhere along the line James Jones and Mike Miller now, were your Daniel Gibson and Donyell Marshall, then. It was a bad team that made it to the Finals in '07, and because they had a once in a generation player in James they made it to the Finals and were unceremoniously swept by the Spurs. James alone just wasn't enough.
This year, the Spurs still have those same old guys from then that they do now with Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Gone is Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Brent Barry, and the Immortal Robert Horry. Now, almost imitating that team and it's boring-yet-effective high pick and roll's with Duncan/Parker and Duncan/Ginobili and inside-outside game that set up "big shot" Bob and Bruce Bowen for easy threes. The Spurs run the same Duncan/Parker Duncan/Ginobili screen and rolls they did then, but now, instead of veteran savvy, they bring youthful exuberance to the table.
Kawhi Leonard (21), Danny Green (25), Tiago Splitter (28), and Gary Neal (28) open up the floor for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili; playing confident and competent enough to bring the Spurs to the precipice of a fifth championship in franchise history as well as the fifth in Tim Duncan's career.
But, nonetheless, there are a few questions to be answered. So as we do with most NBA News and Notes, Let's break this down with bold headlines and individual segments.
Are The Spurs The Kryptonite To LeBron James's Superman Routine?:
Back then, the Spurs swept the four games by margins of nine (85-76), 11 (103-92), three (75-72), and one (83-82). As previously stated, LeBron was the only player worth a damn, averaging 22.0/7.0/6.8; the next best player on that team in the Finals was Drew Gooden with a 12.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG.
Meanwhile, the Spurs had three future hall of famers in Parker (24.5 PPG), Duncan (18.3) and Ginobili (17.8) who each averaged double-digit scoring and pulled through in the clutch when it mattered. Gregg Popovich will be able to coach circles around Erik Spoelstra; Duncan will dominate the Forward matchup between him and Bosh; Wade will attack Parker and Ginobili and draw an erroneous amount of calls; Tiago Splitter will super-cede anything Miami has at center. But the real question is, will LeBron dominate all who step in front of him and continue his ascension to "greatest of all time"? Probably. More than likely, the age of the Spurs – veteran savvy too rookie blunders – will be their undoing. The Heat proved they could adjust to teams that dominate the paint, the only thing that they'd have to be careful of is Parker. If Chalmers can't contain him, much like '07, Parker could be looking at his second Finals MVP.
Will The Youth And Inexperience Of The Spurs Roster Hurt Them?:
No. This was something that could've been their downfall in the Grizzles series. They treated the Grizzles like Rick James used to treat hookers. Not to speak ill of the dead, but Rick James and his wife at one point did hold a woman against her will and put cigarettes out on her. I'm just saying that that's what the Spurs did to the Grizzles, who, as everyone thought, were the best matchup for the Heat.
Will Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh's Poor Play Continue ?:
If you watched last night. No. No it won't. Wade seemed to be back in the saddle again – I hate Aerosmith, but the reference was there – Bosh, although only putting up nine points and eight rebounds, had timely rebounds that kept a few Heat possessions going and a clutch three that put the Heat up 10 before the half.
The Spurs on the other hand swept the Lakers – whom everyone thought would give the Spurs a hard fought series – the Warriors ended up giving them that hard fought series in round two, but lost at home in six, and then the Spurs Rick James'd the Grizzles. Much like the '07 team, the Spurs have focused on defense and clogging the paint. The Heat seem to have problems with this – but that's nothing a few refs can't fix.
Finally, Who Will Win And Why?:
Although the Spurs have enjoyed a miraculous run, beating teams most thought would be advancing to the Finals (maybe not the Warriors, but the Lakers were an early season favorite and everyone thought the Grizzles were winning). Tim Duncan is playing close to '07 Duncan and his best in two years with a 17.8/9.2/2.1 line in the playoffs. Parker is next level and proving why he's a perennial MVP candidate with 27.3 PPG and 7.2 assists per-game, Ginobili is a key role player – not quite the sixth man he was in '07, and Kawhi Leonard is blossoming with 13.8 PPG and 8.0 RPG. Tracy McGrady has also advanced past the first round of the playoffs in his career and could be on way to his first NBA championship – one which he'll have no part of, but will still receive a ring.
On the other hand you have LeBron James, the greatest player in the NBA right now and possibly of all time. Defeating the team that denied him his first ever championship could be sweet revenge – something LeBron's current run has revolved around starting with his vanquishing of the Celtics last year, on way to his first Championship.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. James, since the Celtics series has been giving it cold to every team that's tried to step in his way; it's destiny if you will. Teams like the Spurs can sometimes play spoiler to destiny. This year is not that year though. And much like I previously stated in the news and notes for game seven, the youth of the Pacers are probably who we'll be looking at in two years while they lift the Larry O' Brien. Russell Westbrook will be back, Derrick Rose will return, Kobe will be back and Dwight will be 100%, next year. The Spurs' last attempt for a championship is this year…. wait a second, is it okay if I change my pick right now?
I can't believe this didn't come to me earlier, this is the Spurs last chance. This is Gregg Popovich's last ride for a championship with Parker, Ginobili and Duncan at the height of their powers. The men he groomed into the future hall of famers. This series goes seven and the Spurs take it on Miami's home court and LeBron's legacy is forever tainted by teams from Texas. Two times for the Spurs and once for the Dallas Mavericks.
Either way, both teams have ulterior motives for winning, things ranging from last hurrahs with Popovich too the oft-debated legacy of LeBron James and the Big Three. No matter what though, one team will stand tall when all is said and done. Whether LeBron can continue his ascension to greatness or Duncan can solidify his ballot for "greatest player of his generation", will remain to be seen.