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NBA Finals Quick Hits 6/20

June 20, 2012

What’s Annoying Me:

Brooks (average coach) and Spoelstra (bad coach) are being talked up about how good they are. About halfway through the 1st game I was saying that LeBron is a better off the ball than on the ball defender on Durant so they should put Battier on him full time. Game 4 was the first time Spoelstra did it and Durant was much less effective. I was saying very early on that if I were the Thunder I’d use Collison as a scoring option as he’s not great at it against length but against undersized guys he’s very good (aka when he was atKansas and 6’8 meant tall he was a dominant scorer). Game 4 was the first time they ran a play for him and he had about 8-10 points in the 1st half on very high percentage shots. I was saying early on that Chalmers was playing horribly and they needed to get their other shooters on the floor to space the Thunder out. In game 4 James Jones and Norris Cole played a lot and both sparked runs in the 2nd and 3rd by hitting the wide open shots Chalmers missed so regularly. Chalmers eventually had a good game (25 pts) but all of it came after he was finally benched once again disproving the crap theory people throw out there that you can’t bench someone b/c then they’ll play worse. Usually they’ll play the same and sometimes it lights a fire under their butt or gives them a chance to calm down and watch others play so they do better. Not saying I’m this genius tactician but these were very simple moves (Heat undersized attack them inside, Thunder doubling LeBron every time get people on floor who can shoot, etc.) yet it took Game 4 for these crappy coaches to change. I think this shows how overrated Xs and Os are in the NBA. A coach in the NFL is very valuable, a manager in the MLB is somewhat valuable, but a coach in the NBA is more babysitter and psychologist than tactician. Yes everyone says Greg Popovich but also keep in mind he has guys like Duncan and Ginobili who always have been team first so that tone is set by them as well as him. If he traded Duncan and Ginobili for Amare Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony I doubt his amazing coaching would get them to play better. Selfish players are selfish and team oriented players play the right way.

The flopping and complaining to the refs in this series is near if not at an all-time high. I’m glad Stern has at least brought it up as it’s ruined the sport yet I would say both teams are doing it. If you saw the last play of the 3rd quarter you would have seen Russell Westbrook pull up for a jumper and then stick his left leg out to draw contact (Reggie Miller style) and then fall to the ground like he was shot. At the exact same moment Kevin Durant was battling for position for the offensive rebound, couldn’t get it, and flopped himself. Westbrook’s shot went in and they called Battier for the off the ball foul but I told my wife that it’s amazing that in a 2 second span the Thunder’s best two players are both flopping. It just shows how prevalent it is.Kobe is making a big deal about how he doesn’t flop and he’s right he rarely does but he’s also a top 5 complainer to the refs and I think they are if not the same thing then at least very closely related. Soccer used to be the joke sport and they have curbed it a lot by giving yellow cards to blatant floppers (still pretty bad at times) but I’ve watched the Euro Cup and the NBA Finals multiple games in the same week and I’d say the NBA has officially gotten worse than soccer with flopping.

What’s Surprising Me:

Bosh’s effectiveness both offensively and defensively. Historically he is an above average rebounder, average shot blocker (surprised how good he has been in this series at defending the rim-huge part of why Heat are up 3-1 and he never did it during his career), below average post player, and great high post player due to his very good mid range jumpshot. He’s Dirk minus the ability to hit the 3 consistently (hit a few these playoffs but still a surprise when they go in), the ability to score 1 on 1 against defenders (huge difference), and minus the clutchness Dirk has shown the past 6 years or so. I’ve said for awhile that if you switched Bosh with a similar talent who just did different things (Kevin Garnett-better rebounder, shot blocker, defender yet worse shooter, Blake Griffin-better rebounder and post player who also would help their already amazing transition game) the Heat would be the unstoppable beast they were expected to be. Everyone blames LeBron, it’s fun to but not really valid, but Wade’s lack of a 3 point shot (career high 20’s low 30’s which is god awful for a SG) and Bosh’s lack of interior defense or post game are the biggest reasons why everyone still competes with them. Yet in this series Bosh hasn’t just shot 15 footers off double teams but also has consistently converted his rolls to the basket when the Thunder trap Wade or LeBron on the pick and roll on the left side of the floor. How many times have you seen Bosh convert a contested left handed layup as he sneaks in just ahead of the shot blocker. This has been an integral part of the series as without it the Thunder could trap the pick and roll consistently and only have to worry about the Heat hitting 3 pointers if their rotation was late. Bosh forces the help side defenders to stay at home longer to make sure Bosh doesn’t get the pass before rotating to the shooters giving Chalmers, Battier, and Cole more open looks.

James Harden horrible series: Take away Harden’s very good game 2 (21 pts 64% FG 4 reb 2 ast) and he’s shooting 23% FG/18% 3pt while committing horrible fouls (13 fouls in those 3 games) and turning the ball over regularly (4 TO last night). He’s put himself in a total funk and I have my doubts that he’ll be able to pull himself out of it before the series ends as it seems to be getting worst. His last moment of Game 4 was being given a wide open 20 footer at the top of the key, being scared to death to take it and then realizing he had to take it so he took a shot that everyone in the building knew wasn’t going in. He’s having a Nick Anderson 1995 NBA Finals type meltdown and, if I didn’t dislike his flopping Ginobili style game so much, I’d feel bad for the kid.

What’s Exciting Me:

This series has been spectacular in the first 45 minutes yet both in Games 3 and 4 the Thunder have self destructed. That’s a bit of a letdown but still this series matching LeBron against Durant is a preview of the next 5 years in the NBA. Dwight Howard’s decision of where to play in 2013 onward and a few wily veterans like Dirk,Kobe, Garnett etc. could throw a wrench in this once in awhile but I’m expecting both the Heat and the Thunder to have multiple trips back to the Finals. This is an important year for LeBron to wrap up his first championship b/c Durant at 23 years old is already the most prolific (3x scoring champ) and one of the most efficient (49.6% FG this season) scorers in the league and the question is “How good can he become.” He has a Dirk/Kobe like dedication in the gym and considering his FG%, 3pt%, rebounds, steals, and blocks all improved this year over last year it’s worth wondering if next year we’ll see a Durant stat line like 32 9 5 1.5 1.5 which would put him right up with LeBron this year and Jordan in ’88 as the best stat lines of the past 30 years. He hasn’t been the dominant figure late in games during these Finals but even that appears to be improving yearly as his killer shots against the Mavs, Lakers, and Spurs can’t simply be erased due to a hiccup one round later. Durant is quickly becoming one of the 20 best players in the history of the NBA and LeBron already has established himself as such which gets me very excited about what the future holds for the sport.

Free Agency 2012: It’s hard to watch these Finals where each team has two legit stars and a 3rd very good player (Bosh/Harden) without realizing that the Mavericks need a lot of help. I’m still convinced that Dirk can still be Dirk for another 2 years and I’m expecting Deron Williams to sign with the Mavs but that just leaves Shawn Marion with those two. That trio is good but hardly a powerhouse team which is why a Heat victory could be just what’s needed for the Mavs to cash in on this summer’s free agents. There are a number of older veterans (Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Grant Hill, Marcus Camby, etc.) who might be willing to sign a cheap one year deal with a contender for one last shot at a ring. If Williams signs immediately with Dallas I could see some of those candidates taking a look at Dallas, San Antonio, or Los Angeles as those three appear to me to be the only legit rivals that could possibly unseat a Heat/Thunder rematch. A dominant Heat team was the impetus for Dwight Howard wanting out of Orlando and the Knicks duo of Stoudamire and Anthony forming. If the Heat win the title this year in dominant fashion, 4-1 is pretty dominant, I could see more “Super Teams” forming as the 2012 free agent class will realize they either need to join a top level club or should expect to not have a legit shot at a title for the next few years. The dominance of LeBron and Durant could be just the kick in the butt guys like Garnett need to jump ship and the 2012 Free Agent Class could really change the NBA landscape.


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