Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 6/18/13
Danny Green has been lights out for the Spurs so far. (Photo credit) I don’t want to write about LeBron’s fourth quarter disappearing act (three points, 1-5 from the field). There’ll be plenty of time for that after the series if Miami loses. I suppose Miami’s move to small-ball is interesting, but it had the inadvertent side effect of getting Tiago Splitter off of the floor (which made the Spurs somewhere between 70 and 80% better). I could talk about Manu Ginobili’s throwback game or Danny Green making a play for the biggest “WTF” Finals MVP in the history of sports (Desmond Howard has been clinging to that title for far too long), but if I do, it’ll all go away. That’s been the nature of these Finals. Nobody has any clue what’s going on. Everyone thinks San Antonio has figured out Miami’s three-point attack after they go 8-25 in Game 1, then they go 10-19 in Game 2. Everyone assumes San Antonio’s offense has figured out Miami’s D after Game 3, but they disappeared in Game 4. Miami’s Big 3 scores as many points combined the first three games as Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gary Neal, then they go off for 85 in Game 4. Manu Ginobili looks dead in the first four games, then he comes back to life in Game 5. There’s been no flow to this series, no rhyme or reason. It’s been complete and utter chaos, the result of two teams perfectly suited to battle each other and only each other because neither has another worthy opponent in the league. Even if it occasionally looks like Gregg Popovich is playing chess while Erik Spoelstra is playing checkers (taking Birdman out of the rotation? Seriously?), what we’re seeing is two great basketball teams adjusting to each other on the fly and bringing out the best in each other. Don’t think that’s not the case just because it hasn’t ever happened at the same time. We’ve never seen this before in the Finals. There’s no precedent for this. The casual definition of a great series is two teams playing each other closely for seven games. We’ve had one single-digit game so far. The weird thing is that generally, when the stakes are so high, the usual outcome involves one team “figuring it out” and winning. Like I’ve said, I believe in symmetry in sports: storylines just don’t go away without resolution. No storyline has even really had the time to develop here because it’s immediately swept away by a different one. Now consider the stakes. Miami is fighting for a burgeoning dynasty and LeBron is taking a shot at MJ’s throne. The Spurs are playing for a fifth ring, Duncan’s legacy as the best player of his era and the entire fate of basketball as a sport. It’s maddening. We’re so used to seeing one story unfold in front of us like LeBron “figuring it out” and winning his first ring last year that we just don’t know how to react to a series like this where nothing makes any sense. Heading into Game 6, we know exactly four things to be definitively true: 1) Miami can’t stop Danny Green It’s just the way their team is constructed. Wade can’t chase him around screens without tiring himself out on offense, Miller just isn’t good enough, and LeBron is otherwise occupied with Kawhi Leonard. This isn’t a coincidence, the Heat just don’t have an answer for him. This isn’t going anywhere. 2) Miami NEEDS Mario Chalmers to show up In Game 2 he was the second best player on the floor. He put up 19-4-2, made half of his shots and played sneakily awesome defense on Tony Parker (13 points, 5-13 shooting). In Game 3 he sucked (0-5, zero points, one assist) and wasn’t much better in Game 5 (2-10, seven points) or Game 1 (3-10, eight points). If Chalmers is hitting his shots and running the offense, it gives Wade the freedom to play the baseline (where he’s at his best and steals a few free buckets every game) and stretches the floor enough for LeBron to get to the hoop. They can’t expect LeBron, Wade and Bosh to put up 85 every night. Chalmers has to step up and be their fourth guy. 3) Everything Tiago Splitter does makes me cry How he managed to put up a decent series against Memphis’ front line is a mystery I’ll never solve. I don’t care about LeBron’s block on him. LeBron does that to everyone. What kills me is the turnovers (he can’t catch the ball! He’s the Braylon Edwards of the NBA only he’s not athletic, smart or a drunk driving risk) and the rebounding (2.6 per game in the Finals, 6.4 per game in the regular season). If you can’t rebound and catch the ball, then what else are you good for in a series against Miami, Tiago? You can’t play small-ball with them, you have no athleticism as a center or as a human, you’re absolutely worthless here. It’s sad, the Spurs spent all year wasting possessions, games, months building Splitter up as a legitimate partner for Tim Duncan to lean on and now he disappears in the Finals. If the Spurs lose this series, Splitter becomes an immediate member of the Rasho Nesterovic Memorial Hall of Fame for Guys the Spurs Couldn’t Fix. 4) The refs are calling ticky-tacky offensive fouls and almost nothing on defense It’s the most inconsistent officiating I’ve ever seen in a playoff series. It’s not even that there’s bias, it just doesn’t make sense. The Spurs are getting called for travels several times per game while Dwyane Wade gets away with three or four PER QUARTER, yet Miami is getting killed by moving screen calls (including the rarely seen illegal out of bounds screen on Mike Miller) that San Antonio is getting away with. Nothing kills the flow of a series more than offensive fouls, and nothing kills the fun of a basketball game more than the refs saying “screw the guys who make eight figures, you’re here to see ME!” That’s it. That’s all we know. I could have easily snuck some more in about Spoelstra, but that’s getting it’s own column. Same goes for LeBron, but that might honestly deserve a book, and really both guys have had their moments in this series. Meanwhile, we’re 48 minutes away from the biggest letdown in Finals history (a 66-win team with a top-5 all-time player in his prime and a 27-game winning-streak losing, never happened before) AND a small-market team winning it’s fifth title in 14 years with the same coach and star. All in all, this is one of the most important Finals in league history, and we have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. So, here’s how I think it’s gonna go down. I think LeBron is going to go nuts in Game 6 for something like 43 points. I think Parker and Ginobili are going to come back to Earth, Spoelstra is going to fix the Birdman travesty (he has to, right?), and then we’re going to be set up for the greatest Game 7 since Lakers/Celtics in ’84. And what’ll happen in Game 7? I have no freaking clue. By: Sam Quinn Twitter: @Rhinos_Cry_Too
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