NBA Finals: Spurs Kawh-It the Heat En-route to Fifth Title

FinalsThe rematch wasn’t quite what we hoped for after a 7-game thriller of 2013.  But with the Western Conference being far superior to the East all season, were you really surprised the NBA Finals ended up following suit? The San Antonio Spurs made easy, and I mean easy work of the two-time defending Champion Miami Heat.  The Spurs finished off the Heat in 5 games, but if not for missed free-throws late in game 2, it could have been a sweep.

It looked like it would be a close, hard-fought series after through two.  Game 1 was close until LeBron James suffered the cramps stemming from the AC going out at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.  That’s when the Spurs pulled away.  But the Heat bounced back in game 2, thanks in part to those previously mentioned missed free-throws by the Spurs.  But then the series went back to Miami, and San Antonio showed their road-warrior spirit, and just ran the Heat of their own court, TWICE.

It was surprising to see Miami, a team led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to show so little fight.  Wade was absent most of the season, looking like an old 32-year-old despite all the regular season rest he was given.  Miami didn’t use Bosh appropriately and James, despite being the best player on the planet, is only one person.  It didn’t help that their starting point guard Mario Chalmers, and bench guys like Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Norris Cole gave them close to nothing on either end of the floor.

Ok, that’s enough about what the Heat didn’t do. Let’s talk about what the new NBA Champs did to win.  They played team basketball.  When you can name 3 or 4 players all worthy of winning Finals MVP, you know you’ve done something right.  Tim Duncan, the 17-year veteran was the most consistent, surpassing Magic Johnson for most double-doubles in Finals history.  Manu Ginobili put a horrible 2013 Finals behind him and turned back the clock.  I mean can we talk about that poster dunk followed by a 3 in game 5?  How about Boris Diaw, a guy who couldn’t stay on the Charlotte Bobcats roster a year ago.  As a big man, he was a better facilitator than all of Miami’s guards put together in this series!  And finally the eventual winner, 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard.  After foul trouble kept him off the floor in games 1 and 2, boy oh boy did this kid step up and put San Antonio on his back.  Big shots, big defense.  It was great to see.  In fact, basically everything the Spurs did in this series was great to watch.  The unselfish ball movement, the consistent defense.  Basketball fans got to enjoy the work of Gregg Popovich, who is in the conversation of greatest coaches to ever grace the sidelines.  It doesn’t matter what pieces he’s given, he finds a way to make them fit into his system.  And it’s a system that has made San Antonio, a small market don’t forget, the toast of the NBA for nearly two decades.

So that’s it.  Another great NBA season is over.  But with the draft 10-days away, as well as free agency upon us, the story-lines continue.  Who goes number 1 to Cleveland?  Will this loss mean James opting out and leaving Miami? Will Duncan retire on top? Will Kevin Love be with the Timberwolves come the start of next season?  What happens with Donald Sterling and the Clippers? And so much more.

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NBA: Injuries, Losses and Confusion… Oh Nets

1465220_10152115043000555_1656789514_nNever thought I’d say it, but this team is missing their 1-2 records from weeks 1-3 of the season.  0-4 this week, a 3-10 record for a team many thought wouldn’t lose more than 20-25 all season, and a fight for last place in the Atlantic with the Knicks. Or just like we all saw this season going for New York area teams.

Game 10: vs Portland

Kevin Garnett thought he was 27 again, hitting his first 5 shots in the 1st quarter for 10 quick points after Saturday night off.  The entire offense shined in the first 12 minutes, scoring a season high 40 points in the frame.  But unfortunately for Brooklyn, the defense never showed up, and their hot start came to a halt just as quickly as it came.  Without Brook Lopez down low, Portland quickly learned to defend from 12-feet out, because there was no paint attack for the Nets last night.

Brooklyn couldn’t defend the 3, allowing Wesley Matthews to go 4-4 in the 1st quarter.  The Trailblazers as a team to shoot 44% from 3, and an obscene 54% overall.  Brooklyn did a good job limiting turnovers and getting to the free throw line, but they only finished at 37% from the field and a poor 23% from 3.  The Nets were held to just 35 points in the 2nd half.

If all those numbers weren’t troubling enough, this team lacked any kind of leadership in the 2nd half.  Timeouts were taken at strange times, there didn’t seem to be any talking on defense and Jason Kidd continues to just sit on the sidelines doing nothing.

  • Shaun Williams led the way with 23 points in place of the injured Deron Williams, Joe Johnson led with just 3 assists and Reggie Evans pulled down the most boards at 9.

L Trailblazers 108 – Nets 98

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 Game 11: @ Charlotte

Big shocker, they played poorly in the 3rd quarter and Deron Williams re-injured his ankle.  Down just 3 at the half, Brooklyn was outscored by 10 in the 3rd quarter where they allowed one of their 2 30 point quarters on the night.  They lost their point guard again, when Williams landed awkwardly on the foot of Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker after a late 2nd quarter jump shot. Williams took and made a pair of free throws, but was then immediately removed from the game and didn’t return.

The defense had no answer for Walker, who went for 31 including 2 clutch free throws to ice the game in the final seconds.  Neither team was great from the charity stripe, with the Nets leaving 7 points to the Cats 13 on the line.

  • Andray Blatche came off the bench to led the way with 25 points, Kevin Garnett pulled down 8 boards in 22 minutes, and Shaun Livingston assisted on 5 buckets.

L Nets 91 – Bobcats 95

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Game 12: @ Minnesota

For the amount of effort Brooklyn showed on Friday, they should’ve stayed home. No Lopez, Williams, Terry or Kirilenko again, and it showed quickly. By the end of the 1st quarter, the Timberwolves had a double-digit lead at 30-14.  Minnesota’s lead grew to 20 by half, and by the final buzzer, the Nets fell by their biggest margin of the year, 30 points.

All five of the Wolves starters finished in double figure scoring, including a double-double for Kevin Love, who had his way down low without Brook Lopez on the floor.  Brooklyn managed to get 4 in double figures as well, but had 20 turnovers to their 31 made field-goals.  Shaun Livingston had his worst game of the year in place of Deron Williams, tallying no assists and just 1 point.  The play of Mirza Teletovic was probably the only positive.  The second year forward pulled down 7 boards and score 7 points in 15 minutes of action.

  • Andray Blatche led the way for the 2nd straight day off the bench, scoring 16 points.  Reggie Evans and Kevin Garnett both grabbed 8 boards while Joe Johnson had a team high 4 assists.

L Nets 81 – Timberwolves 111

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Game 13: vs Detroit

Down 4 after 1 quarter, Brooklyn had one of their best offensive quarters in the 2nd, putting up 32 points.  Now stop me if this sounds familiar.  The Nets held a lead at the half, and then squandered it in the 3rd quarter.  A third straight day without Lopez, Williams, Terry and Kirilenko meant using their entire bench again.  And without their all-star big man, the defense in the paint continues to suffer, with the Pistons outscoring them 20-0 in the paint in the 3rd quarter alone.

Their lone healthy and not limited starter, Joe Johnson, did his best to save the Nets from their 4th straight loss. The shooting guard was on the floor by far the most, scoring almost at will, scoring a season high on 12-of-18 shooting, while dishing out 4 assists to no turnovers.  Greg Monroe and Brandon Jennings both tallied double-doubles for Detroit, who out-rebounded Brooklyn, as well as forced nearly twice the amount of turnovers than they committed.

  • Joe Johnson’s 34 was the most by a Net all season, Kevin Garnett continues to lead in rebounding with another 9 boards and Shaun Livingston dished out 7 assists.

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There continues to be little rhyme or reason to the distribution of minutes, and I never know when certain guys are going to come off the bench.  Some of this has to do with the recent rash of injuries to their starters, but a lot goes back to age and a lack of playing time together.  What I take away from this teams first 12 games is they need to play better pick-and-roll defense, as well as help defense, and they need Lopez back. He is the key to this team’s success.  Sure there’s depth body wise in the front court, but not enough scoring wise.  They need their lone all-star from a year ago to be healthy, and they need KG to be more consistent on the offensive end. If they can at least get one of those two things to go with an effective Blatche and Plumlee coming off the bench, they can survive (for now) without Williams.

Now the Nets look to be thankful for some much-needed wins this holiday week.  4 games and it all starts up north Tuesday in Toronto, then a Wednesday date back home with the Lakers.  The weekend caps off with a match-up with Dwight Howard in Houston on Friday and wraps up in Memphis on Saturday night.