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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

Video Blog #7 – NBA Finals predictions, Stanley Cup Finals, Pacquiao-Bradley

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I discuss the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, and the controversial Pacquiao-Bradley split decision this weekend

Thought on Heat Pacers Game 4: Wade punches the Pacers in the face, Lebron has a potential moment

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Miami Heat forward LeBron James and Miami Heat...

Miami Heat forward LeBron James and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade after their win against the Washington Wizards during an NBA basketball game in Washington, on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. The Heat won 95-94. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First off, I want to give credit to Lebron James for that game. It is slightly disrespectful to talk about him 2nd most when he drops a 40 pts, 18 rebound, 9 assist game. Without Lebron the Heat neither would’ve been close at halftime nor would they have put on such a show in the second half. If the Heat win a title this game will go down as an important one for him.

However I can’t help but feel that game belonged to Dwyane Wade. Good players produce in the playoffs, but great players change games. Dwyane Wade completley changed Game 4 and arguably the series. When the Pacers led 61-51 with 8:29 left in the 3rd, they really were in control of the game and play. They had seen a strong game from Lebron in the 1st half but were content to simply outproduce him as a team versus one man. As soon as Wade tapped into his 2006 and 2011 Finals form from that point forward, the game belonged to the Heat. They had the superior energy level and confidence on both ends, with Lebron and the Heat’s defense riding the momentum wave to their best half of the playoffs.

Ultimately this is the reason why we value big performances and winners in the playoffs. The players who come up winners in the postseason are most often the ones who have moments like this. With the Heat looking nearly dead on the scoreboard and in energy level, Dwyane Wade changed his team’s fate – and in the NBA playoffs one half can make all the difference. This is something stats can’t quite capture. Wade could’ve had an identical 13-23 30 pt, 9 rebound, 6 assist game but in a drastically different way – say with 10 pts in the 1st, 10 in the 2nd, 5 in the 3rd, and 5 in the 4th and it may have led to a game the Pacers controlled confidently, then closed out in the 2nd half. But what he did in this game truly dropped an anvil on the Pacers’ head – which may be the most effective way to steal control of a series on the road. The scariest part about the Heat in their 2 seasons has always been their ability to put together 8 to 12 pt runs at any time, due to their speed off strong defensive plays. If they go onto compete for a title I believe it will be have to be in a fashion similar to this. Games that look ugly and close for some time, then broken open by unstoppable runs by its two stars. This game was a good start.

Written by jr.

May 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Is Lebron’s Game 3 against the Pacers destined to be a forgotten meltdown?

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Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I watched the Heat let the Pacers blow them out to a 2-1 lead in Game 3, I eagerly awaited for the 3rd year in a row, the morning after reaction to yet another Lebron disappearance in the most important game of the season so far. From a 43-43 tied score at halftime to the 4:16 mark of the 4th when lead 86-67 (the game essentially over), Lebron went 1-7 with no free throw line attempts except a missed technical (bookended by a Granger staredown and Lance Stephenson choke sign) and no shot attempts within 10 feet – for 2 total points. Once again in game seizing time, Lebron’s production shrank as he timidly put up jumpshots.

Yet the reaction has been nowhere near what it was after the disappearing act in the 2011 Finals or Game 5 against Boston in 2010. The reason for this is a few things. Thanks to his play in the first half and garbage time, Lebron still put up 22 pts (10-22), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a respectable number. Secondly Wade had arguably the worst game of his career, let alone playoff career, with 5 pts (2-13), 5 TOVs, and a scuffle with Erik Spoelestra, to wear the goathorns moreso than James. Finally, as has been the case the rest of the series, the Heat simply had no depth past Lebron, Wade and Mario Chalmers’ excellent 25 pt night offensively – with Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem continuing to be MIA.

Thus the reaction has been for the most part that Lebron simply didn’t have the help this game, as he hasn’t all series.

I’m not buying it. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

May 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Responding to Magic’s Lebron comments and Bill Reiter’s takedown of ESPN ranking Lebron the #1 player in the league

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LeBron James

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

On the eve of Magic Johnson providing another meaty quote about Lebron’s 2011 Finals, Bill Reiter at foxsportsflorida.com wrote a very good and clear article about the fallacy of still putting James on a pedastal after a frankly embarrasing shrinking act in the playoffs. As Reiter quotes, Magic said to a crowd at the University of Albany:

Veering from his point that it’s better to be remembered for off-court accomplishments, Magic said, “There’s going to always be great players in basketball. There’s going to always be guys who win championships in the NBA — except LeBron.”

Followed by: “Everybody’s always asking, ‘Who is better between Kobe (Bryant) and LeBron?’ I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? Kobe, five championships; LeBron, zero.'”

Followed by: “Stop trying to compare him to Michael Jordan. Come on, man, six championships for Jordan. You know that Michael averaged over 30 points every playoff series? Don’t try to touch that.”

Reiter responds in part by saying

If only stats mattered, and rising to the moment did not, Joe Montana would not be the greatest quarterback of all time. His winner-take-all intangibles would pale in comparison to someone like Dan Marino.

If this logic held, Wilt Chamberlain would be the Michael Jordan of the NBA. No one ever has, or will, compete with Wilt on the statistical plane. Yet there’s a reason serious basketball people look at Jordan, Magic, Kareem, Russell and a slew of others with a higher level of respect.

That’s why “Mr. October” means something in baseball.

Closing matters. Winning matters. Otherwise it’s all just a glorified version of fantasy sports.

This is so clear — as is the fact LeBron so ferociously undermined his own natural talent with mental weakness and big-game frailty — that stating that fact no longer constitutes dangerous ground for most informed basketball and sports people.

I completley agree with both Magic and Reiter Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

October 23, 2011 at 1:49 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Silly superstars, Treys are for Kicks!

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Image via nba.com

As the Dallas Mavericks progressed through the playoffs it was noted how well their offense was faring, and how strong the team’s 3-point attack was. The team shot 39.4% from 3-point land in the playoffs while shooting more than 20 3’s per game. This is devastating and obviously deserving of attention. Of course with Dirk Nowitzki, one of the great shooters of all time leading the way, would you expect anything less?

Yes, actually you would if you’ve been paying attention.

First off, Dirk has never shot 3-pointers like a mad man. While Ray Allen and, ahem, Antoine Walker shot in excess of 600 3-pointers a season Dirk peaked in the high 300s. Still though, when you’re shooting about 5 3-pointers per game, that’s a serious focus of your game.

It’s fascinating then to see how unimportant 3-pointers have become to Dirk’s current game as they’ve become more important to the Mav team as a whole. Dude’s been averaging about 2 3-pointers per game the past few years. How low is that? Well obviously it’s a heck of a lower than the amount that guys like Kobe, Durant, and Rose shoot, despite the fact none of them is the level of shooter than Dirk is (though admittedly Durant is getting close). Even superstars criticized for their lack of outside shooting like LeBron and Wade shoot 3s more than Dirk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

June 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm