Wednesday, June 6, 2007
NBA Finals Preview.
What To Look For: The San Antonio Spurs are a very good basketball team and could in fact be the best of the past decade. Tim Duncan is a very good basketball player and could in fact be the best to ever play his position. The preceding sentences were structurally sound and served their purpose efficiently. But they were also fucking dull. Their measured and repetitious approach undermine the potency of their contents. Unlike the aforementioned sentences, the Spurs potency is due to their measured and repetitious approach. But they’re considered dull too. As the decade nears it’s end, Duncan & the Spurs have a fourth title within their grasp but the reverence of such dominanace remains at a distance. There are no accolades in fighting through screens and commiting to transition defense. There’s no difference on the scoreboard between a crisp bank shot and a rim rattling dunk. But there is one to the fans. Because of that, the Spurs have been buried underneath the red carpet rolled out for LeBron James. Will these NBA Finals be a coronation of the Air apparent or is San Antonio determined to prove that the King has no clothes?
San Antonio Strengths/Weaknesses: The Spurs are well equipped for any necessary adjustments in this series. They’re the deeper, more disciplined team and their familiarity with the big stage will allow them to get right down to business. Duncan’s unrivaled post game along with Parker and Ginobli’s penetration remain the catalysts for their offense, but as always, the Spurs pride themselves on the other end of the court. The quickness of their backcourt supplements Bowen and Duncan’s smothering defense and finishes off the subsequent fast break. San An’s strength is in their collective will to deny the opponent and create for each other. The only apparent weaknesses are in their underwhelming free throw shooting and inconsistent rebounding, partially due to their dearth of big men.
Cleveland Strengths/Weaknesses: The Detroit Pistons spent a majority of the Eastern Conference Finals arguing with each other, but they could all agree on one thing. The Cavs defense is for real. The size and moblility of Cleveland’s frontcourt allows them to adeptly contest shots, fill passing lanes, cut off penetration and secure several boards. This is a team that is not scored on easily. Which is good for them, because they certainly don’t score very easily themselves. Most of the players on this team are offensively limited and all of them are streaky shooters. What the Cavs need is someone who can force the defense to react and can create some easy shots. Oh, right. Despite his affinity for the perimeter, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been a consistent presence in the paint with his offensive rebounding and his passing is an asset when the offense actually moves.
How They Match Up: If Larry Hughes can effectively play through the pain of his plantar fasciatis, his size and ball handling at the point would help open up the Cavs offense. He can post Parker up, but more importantly, he would keep LeBron off the ball so that the defense won’t be able to focus in on James so easily. Then Bron could attack the basket as a cutter and be more of a threat coming off of screeens and making the easy assist as the defense collapses. If he comes off the dribble, the Spurs will have to send help which only opens up the lanes and gives Cleveland’s shooters better positioning and more time. LeBron James is going to have to ask his teammates every night, “Who else wants to be a star?” The supplementary and second chance baskets that Ilgauskas can provide in the half court are important for the Cavs. If he’s going to extend himself to the perimeter to draw out his defender, then he has to make the shot or the right pass to keep the D honest. Otherwise, he’s just making it easier for the Spurs. Ditto for Drew Gooden. It’s also important for the Cavs to limit Parker and Ginobli’s drives to the basket. If they’re allowed to run free alongside Duncan’s inside/out game, it would shatter the Cleveland’s defense. But with the full court pressure they exhibted during their regular season matchups, the Cavs have shown they can frustrate the Spurs into low-scoring slugfests that Bron can take over in the fourth.
The X Factor(s): The refs. We all remember last year’s Finals. And Joey Crawford. And Manu’s free throw exhibition in Utah. What are we in store for now? This is going to be a physical matchup between two defensive stalwarts with plenty of flopping, whining and finger pointing. Officiating will decide at least a game in this series, and it could be the pivotal one.
Series Prediction: San Antonio has a very good basketball team and they could in fact, be the best of the past decade. Spurs in six.