Lebron/NBA Finals Points
Before I get to the uplifting news, allow me to speak frankly. The NBA has disappointed the s**t out of me the last two months. The defending champs’ knockout was one-upped only by Chuck Liddell’s in terms of head-scratching decisiveness. The one thrilling series in the first round involved a 67-win team getting humilified by a squad of street-ballers. (Note that I morphed “humiliated” and “mortified” because I feel like a new word need be invented to aptly describe what happened to the Mavs this spring.)
That surreal Dallas-Golden State series created a void left by the Mavs, which gave us just one super-heavyweight showdown (a championship series before the Finals if you will) between the Spurs and Suns. Then the Robert Horry/David Stern tag team had to go and roger it all up. By virtue of Horry’s completely unnecessary hip check of Steve Nash and Stern’s utterly preposterous interpretation of the bench-rule, we were denied the one, epic seven-game series we were due this playoffs.
This all preceded my Celtics getting sandbagged in the lottery (by not getting a top two pick) then getting dirt thrown in their face when they were down (by getting the fifth pick). So much for putting your hopes and dreams in the hands of a friggin leprechaun..errr lottery.
So with all that said I’m sure you can understand why I’m feeling just a tad angry, perplexed, unfulfilled, teed off, and generally disheartened, right? I mean I’m not the only one who’s realized how poor the NBA has been the last couple of months, right? You’re probably inclined to agree with me, unless you hail from the city that rocks, in which case you’re probably inclined to tell me to stick something somewhere.
Yep, the town of Cleveland has turned into the castle of King James; its inhabitants have become his subjects and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is now simply an additional reason to visit C-Town. They should just change the prefix from “Cleve” to “Lebron”.
Ladies and gentleman, you are now entering Lebronland. Please fasten your safety belts, put your tray tables and seat backs in their full upright and locked positions, or else assume the fetal (aka “Tayshaun Prince”) position. Lebron-23 has taken off and his final destination is not yet known.
Let’s be truthful, after the performance we witnessed in Game 5 against Detroit, there isn’t a single basketball mind who can give a definitive appraisal of Lebron at this moment. The kid has grown up more in the last four games than he has in the last four years. (And I’m obviously not talking physically, considering I’m convinced that as a baby he was some Lebron-version of Marlon Wayans’ character in “Little Man”.) It’s as if sometime during the fourth quarter of Game 5 his mind and body finally agreed upon a solution to the problem of the horrible team around him. Basically a light bulb went off in the mind, which in turn informed the body that it was bigger, better, stronger and scarier than the whole Pistons team.
How else can you explain 25 straight points and 29 of 30 to close a game? How else can you explain an array of off balance, fading jumpers mixed in with a trio of monstrous dunks, all in the final minutes? Above all, how the heck else can you explain Tayshaun Prince, one of the grittier playoff performers of this era, cowering in fear as Lebron posterized him? It’s almost like Tayshaun saw Lebron soaring in, and said to himself, screw it, I’m cool being that guy forever linked to Lebron entering the next realm, at least I can live to talk about it.
It was that kind of game for everyone involved; a transcendent, ephemeral yet eternal event. You didn’t watch this game, you lived through it; you experienced it; you were somewhere for it. When it was over you rubbed your eyes, checked your watch, maybe even flipped a light switch. All served as confirmations that what you had witnessed was in fact not just a figment of your imagination, but the saving performance of the 2007 NBA Playoffs. A game for the ages.
It was a game that officially marked the coronation of King James as well as the collective decapitation of the new-age “Bad Boys.” I thought Detroit would take the series in six and they lost in six, which after last year’s seven-game tilt, coupled with the events of the past week, can only lead me to conclude that the consequences of losing Ben Wallace were far more grave than the Pistons could have ever imagined. It’s over for Detroit, and just beginning for Cleveland.
The only question now is how far can the Cavs go? Or more appropriately, how far can Lebron take them? Not to a championship, not this year. Not with the San Antonio Spurs, the best team of the last decade, looming. Not with the series going through the Alamo. A week ago I would’ve said the Cavs don’t stand a chance of winning a game, let alone four. Now I’m sure they’ll win at least one, because Lebron says so. No, he hasn’t guaranteed a victory (to my knowledge), but actions always speak louder than words. His actions might as well have been amplified by a bull horn last week.
How many games Lebron will win is a matter of educated guess and/or opinion. Let’s now tackle why he won’t win four games. In a word, defense. The cornerstone of the Spurs quasi-dynasty has always been defense. They know how to best force an opponent to beat them in a way that’s unorthodox and uncomfortable. They toppled the Lakers by taking the ball out of Kobe’s hands; they’ve beaten the Suns by keeping the ball in Steve Nash’s hands. The philosophy against LA was to prevent Kobe from scoring 40; the philosophy against Phoenix was to dare Nash to drop 40. In both instances the plan worked out (except for one Derek Fisher in 2004).
Rest assured, the Spurs will never (nevah evah evah, evah evah!!!) let Lebron James thwart them from their fourth championship in nine years. They’ll double team him, triple team him if necessary. Gregg Popovich will utilize Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson’s big bodies and 12 fouls to ensure that the painted area is well-fortified at all times. Bruce Bowen will continue to be the dirty hound that he is.
Then there’s the Spurs “Big Three”. For the first time this postseason Tony Parker will be matched up against a point guard who he’s better than, after having to deal with with Allen Iverson, Nash and Deron Williams in the Western Conference Playoffs. Manu Ginobili gets better as games and series wear on. And Tim Duncan, yes he is probably the greatest power forward in the history of the game. (I’m now going to watch repeated highlights of his patented post-up and bank shot to counteract my insomnia.)
Whether Duncan acts as a natural sleep-aid or not, whether the Spurs as a whole do it for you or not, they are a deep, talented, experienced and well-coached team built to win championships. Cleveland isn’t. That enormous gap between the two franchises will be the difference in this year’s Finals. But hey, look on the bright side. You’re going to get to watch the best team of the last ten years clash with the best player of the next ten years. You won’t see seven games but you will see history in the making. With the way this season and playoffs have gone, I’d say that’s probably the only icing that can save one crappy cake.
Spurs in six.