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On the Spurs Game 6 collapse (or lack thereof)

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San Antonio Spurs approach bench during a timeout.

San Antonio Spurs approach bench during a timeout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The finish to Game 6 of the Finals will go down in history, due to the likelihood of the Spurs winning when headed to the FT line up 4 with 28 seconds left. A extra FT or defensive rebound closes the game. The Spurs losing that game will haunt them and those players forever.

However, I wouldn’t call it a historic collapse for this reason. The Heat led by 3 points with 1:27 left in the game and after charging back from the 10 point deficit to storm the 4th, felt as if in control of the game, playing at home, having the momentum and with Lebron James playing perhaps the best quarter of his career to that point. From there Tony Parker hit a crazy 26 foot 3pter, followed by a Chalmers turnover turning into a Parker score, then Lebron turning it over on the next 2 possessions, both ending in Ginobili at the FT line, where he hit 3 of 4. In all, the Spurs scored 8 points in a row in less than a minute, turning a 3 point deficit at 1:27 to a 5 point lead at 0:28. For the Spurs to have this sudden surge took a combination of clutch play by their stars scoring or forcing turnovers, fortune and devastating decisions in succession by Miami. In other words, it’s the inverse of what Miami needed to erase their 5 point deficit in the last 28 seconds. For the crushing misfortune the Spurs suffered in the last 28 seconds, they had just as much good luck in the 1 minute before then to shockingly get to that point, if not more. The Spurs in fact outscore the Heat by 3 in the last 1:27. To me, heading into the last 28 seconds the Spurs were about to steal a game they hadn’t controlled all quarter. That’s why I wouldn’t call it a historic collapse.

For the Spurs, I would consider it as big a criticism that a lead that was 13 late in the 3rd and 10 heading into the 3rd, was lost midway through the 4th. The lack of Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan in the last half minute of the 3rd and the first 2-3 minutes of the 4th, may have allowed the Heat to get a grasp on the game. In particular I’m shocked Leonard came off for those 2-3 minutes considering his athleticism and endurance at his age, with Duncan off they really needed Kawhi’s help defense and activity.

Interestingly, in 2011 even though in retrospect it felt like Dallas’ Game 6 win was inevitable, Dallas led by 9 heading into the 4th and, but Miami scored 5 straight points to start the quarter to cut it to 4. This was followed by 8 straight points by Jason Terry and JJ Barea with Miami not scoring for 3 minutes, to push the lead back to 12. In the Spurs Game 6, it was the Spurs who didn’t score from 3 straight minutes as their 82-77 lead went to a 82-85 deficit. In many ways, this game was Lebron’s reprieve for Game 6 of 2011. In that game he couldn’t provide the energy to turn the game to Miami’s, while in this one he not only did he dominate the 4th, but he shut down Tony Parker and the Spurs offense at the same time.

Although it was relatively successful for the Spurs, I still think taking the Tim Duncan-Tiago Splitter pairing out of the series, was a fascinating decision by the Spurs. Splitter is a blue chip center and the combination of him, Leonard and Duncan together was a devastating combination of defensive size. The Spurs took away a potential advantage in the post and on the glass by eliminating their big lineup. It’s unclear whether this was a good thing or not. Although there’s reason to be concerned about bigs guarding Miami’s small lineup, Indiana proved they could compete with a traditional David West-Roy Hibbert lineup. Playing big puts their bigs in defensive problems, but it also throws Miami’s gameplan off. Although San Antonio almost won the series, on paper it seems a smallball series is the way Miami wanted to play. It’s hard to beat a team like Miami at their game.

When looking at Miami’s 2 titles, I really have to credit them for winning big games on the road. There have been a remarkable amount of series for the Heat the last two series where the opponent team ‘had’ homecourt advantage at some point during it. Meaning against the 2013 Spurs, 2013 Pacers, 2013 Bulls, 2012 Thunder, 2012 Celtics, 2012 Pacers, the other team were at a point where they just had to win all their remaining home games to close out the Heat. But in Game 4 against the Spurs, Game 3 against the 2013 Pacers, Game 3 against the Bulls, Game 2 against the Thunder and Game 3 against the 2012 Pacers, (with the exception of the lay-up Bulls series) the Heat avoided either elimination or a very perilous state by going into the other team’s building and beating them, usually in dominant fashion.

As for the Spurs this year will still be an important and memorable part of their history despite the loss. But they aren’t done either even if Tim Duncan dips sharply from here and Ginobili retires or makes Spurs fans wish he had. With a few more Tony Parker prime seasons expected to come and the Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, along with potentially more draft additions by that scouting staff, they have the horses to contend next year, if not ones after that. Leonard may be following the progression of Rajon Rondo, who started off as the 4th wheel for the Celtics in 2008, before in a short period of time surpassing them all to be the star and face of the team by 2010. Leonard could be the guy on the Spurs as early as next year. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if San Antonio is the 2014 champions, following in the footsteps of the late 80s Pistons, probably the best comparable for an agonizing loss of the title in Game 6 and 7 in 1988 followed by winning in 1989 and 1990.

This series was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was exceptional both on a game by game entertainment level with massive historical consequences. This was a Finals, Game 6/7 and playoff series that will stand out in the annuls of history and the NBA will be missed for the summer.

Written by jr.

June 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

2011 Player of the Year – Final

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The Player of the Year Watch has gone on all season long. Here we have the Final ranking.

Player (last rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (1A)

This is an easy choice for me. When it comes to literally lifting a team, Dirk has been the personification of this all year long. With the way LeBron came on against Chicago, I thought he was going to make me toss that aside but it didn’t happen.

I’ll admit that I actually thought that Wade was the MVP of the Finals over Dirk, but over the course of the entire season, nobody contributed value like Dirk.

2. Dwight Howard (3)

My regular season MVP got knocked off his perch down to the 3rd spot after the Conference Finals. However he floats back up a spot after LeBron’s weak Finals play. I’m always hesitant to let someone who has already been eliminated rise in my rankings, particularly when they were eliminated in an upset in the first round, however I can’t find real fault in Howard’s playoff performance, and what happened in the Finals did sway my opinion on LeBron’s season.

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The Mental LeBron James

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Image via Baltimore Sun

While I’ll readily admit that people go overboard when throwing players under the bus as chokers, cowards, etc, the fact remains that the mental side of sports is huge. Any fan who claims to not think about the psychological strengths and weaknesses of athletes is lying either to others or themselves.

The urge to play armchair shrink is irresistible, and really why does it need to be resisted? Yes you want to keep perspective and not go overboard, but when a player has had the kind of strange play LeBron James has, it’s simply unreasonable to insist only Xs and Os can be the cause.

Without further ado, my take on LeBron’s NBA Finals and his mentality in general.

It all started innocently enough

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Written by Matt Johnson

June 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm

A victory for nuance, not unselfishness

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Image via ontfin.com

The NBA Finals are over and I can’t quite believe it. As I realized the Dallas Mavericks had taken control of Game 6 like they had done in no other games in the series, and that this was probably going to be the last NBA basketball played until the labor dispute is resolved, my mood turned bittersweet. It was a great season, and I’m sad to see it end.

Now where to begin with the analysis? Well let’s start with clarifying the story line.

I’ll admit that I was cheering for the Dallas Mavericks and am thrilled they won. However I chafe at the narrative that this was a morality play of the blue collar defeating Hollywood glamour.

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Written by Matt Johnson

June 14, 2011 at 12:36 am

Defending Chris Bosh’s emotion after Game 6

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Chris Bosh and LeBron James

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

I know there’s a lot of other subjects people will discuss after these Finals. But I want to touch on a smaller moment and point of discussion: Chris Bosh breaking down into apparant tears in the hallway after the game, and at one point falling down on his knees. This drew ridicule from many fans. Bosh has had a reputation as a “soft” player for a while, attracting much of the hate directed at the Heat. This was one more reason for the vultures to swirl around Bosh’s lack of physicality in the game. I felt the opposite. I liked Bosh’s emotion and pain after this crushing Finals loss.

I want my players to react to a loss the way Bosh did. No, they don’t have to break down into visible tears – it’s not about what’s on the surface. But I want them to be as invested in winning the title that losing hurts this much. I want this to be the worst day of their lives. I want the game to mean that much to them. Because if it does, they’re surely giving it all on the court. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

June 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Lebron’s Game 5: To play well, but not the right kind of well

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LeBron James in New York City to discuss the f...

Image via Wikipedia

The vultures are swirling around LeBron James after Game 5, yet another quiet performance for the self appointed King. Not all the hate is deserved. Lebron by most standards had an effective game as shown by his 17 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist statline. He aggresively went after rebounds, looked to score inside, and shredded the Mavericks defense with passes – particularly in the first half of the 4th.

Yes, Lebron played effectively. But it wasn’t the right kind of effective.

The truth is, taking a Finals game on the road is not just about playing well. It’s about gaining a mental edge over the home team. It’s about controlling the game. And this is Lebron’s great failure in these playoffs so far. Read the rest of this entry »

The Heatle Redundancy

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Multi-Headed Snake = not as scary as you thought it would be

Well, obviously the big story of the moment is LeBron Jameslack of production in the NBA Finals. I want to hold off discussing that though and talk about what I consider the broader phenomenon. That being the fact that the Miami Heat have a redundant collection of talent.

When people fantasize about super-teams such as the Heatles, the primary scenario on their mind is an offensive one. They imagine that the amount of effort that will be required to stop James will leave Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh wide open thus leading to an unstoppable offense.

We’d be stupid NOT to do this!

Game 5 shows a snapshot of this not happening. After a series in which LeBron has been crucified for his passivity, the streaking Wade went down with an injury and went out for a long stretch. What happened? The Heat didn’t fall apart, rather they actually outscored the Mavs, and LeBron scored at a much better rate and efficiency than he done with Wade on the court.

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Written by Matt Johnson

June 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Aftermath of a Miami-Dallas Game 3 classic: When a 1st quarter matters more than a 4th

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Dwyane Wade playing with the Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade has been the true King in these FInals (Image via Wikipedia)

I loved Game 3 of the Dallas vs Miami NBA Finals. It’s an ESPN classic game in my books. In fact I’m going to be really hyperbolic and call that one of my favorite NBA games of all time. I’ve never had more to say about a game at the least.

So where did Miami trump Dallas in this game? True, they were a little better in the last few minutes and won by a basket. But that’s not really where Miami won and Dallas lost this game. That came in in the 1st quarter.

Dallas started Game 3 playing unbelievably bad defense. It’s one thing for a good offense to find open shots, it’s another for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (more on them later) to get wide open, uncontested scores/dunks in the paint. My hunch says it all came down to Brendan Haywood’s injury leaving Tyson Chandler worried about fouling early. With intensity and strong close-outs inside the Mavericks title caliber defense momentarily collapsed.

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6 Finals thoughts and a prediction

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Alright, I’m running way behind schedule, so this will be right quick.

Loved reading Julien’s piece analyzing the Mavericks and the Heat. He made some points I’d have made had he not beat me to it, and some other great points I wouldn’t have made.

Here are some other finals previews I enjoyed reading.

On my mind:

1. Miami certainly appears to have played the tougher playoff schedule by a good amount, and they’ve looked more in control as they’ve done it. Not to take anything away from the Mavs who are 12-3 in the post-season just like the Heat, but they were a few bounces away from being down 2-1 in the Laker series instead of up 3-0, and maybe a single bounce away from losing 2 of 3 at home against Oklahoma City. Add in that the Heat clearly have more talent and have home court advantage:

If Dallas wins this series, it will be a pretty staggering achievement and a substantial upset.

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Written by Matt Johnson

May 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm

NBA Finals preview: How Dallas can beat Miami

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Dirk Nowitzki playing with the Dallas Mavericks

Image via Wikipedia

So here we are in the Finals with the second Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks matchup in 5 years. I have to admit, as good as these playoffs have been, there’s something weirdly underwhelming about these two teams making the Finals compared to usual. Neither of them have wowed me despite a 12-3 record for both teams getting here. Both teams teams grind it out defensively and have their stars make the right plays to win the game. Both are here in large part to other team’s flaws – Essentially every team in this playoffs have had flaws.

Miami will be the clear favorite. With the way they dispatched Boston and Chicago, it certainly looks like there’ll be no stopping the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh express for a number of years. Here’s why I think Dallas has a reasonable shot:

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Written by jr.

May 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm