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The Knucklehead Report: What to Expect if… (The NBA Finals Edition)

Photo via www.sun-sentinel.com
Photo via http://www.sun-sentinel.com

Collectively, the road 2014 NBA Finals has not only taught us a lot about the state of the league and the players in it, but has raised our expectations as fans for in season play. The first round of these refreshingly electrifying playoffs came and went with a record five game sevens, and had Damian Lillard’s veins not been filled with ice, the ‘Blazers would’ve been forced to play in what would’ve been the sixth game seven series of the playoffs back in Houston.’

For the first time in a long time, teams seam to be becoming more competitive across the board. Somewhere at the David Stern’s retirement compound, the former leader of the NBA regime is sleeping well. With the Clippers advancing to, and playing competitively in a six game series against the now Western Conference runner-up Thunder, the CP3 blocked trade to the Lakers is now looking like a great move.

Everything aforementioned though is now in the past. Although 14 other teams fought valiantly to try and secure their spot in the rafters, only two remain… again: The perennial, or should I say nearly centennial San Antonio Spurs, and The team with the best active player in the world, The Miami Heat. After a first round of nail bitters, this very well may seem anti-climactic. I’m here to tell you it isn’t. Once again, the exceptionally long NBA playoffs have succeeded in yielding the two best teams to compete for the leagues highest honor.

Photo via www.cbssports.com
Photo via http://www.sanantoniospurs.com

Last year, I predicted that the aging spurs couldn’t exchange blows for more than six games with Miami. Even six games, I suppose, was a stretch, but Danny Green’s hot hand sold me on it. Well, as predicted, the Spurs didn’t last. With the championship all but won, they got out-hustled. With mere seconds to go, Chris Bosh pulled down a key offensive board and kicked the ball out to Ray Allen and let “Jesus Shuttlesworth” send the game to over time from the corner.

In the 2012-2013 season, it was LeBron, not Chris Bosh who led the Heat in rebounding through the regular and postseason. Why is it then that in the defining moment of the season, the leading rebounder didn’t do what he had done all season? Bosh, not LeBron, got that rebound because the Miami Heat were a younger team that was athletic enough to handle a long, grueling series. Bosh got the rebound because unlike the Spurs three best players, Miami’s big three aren’t seen with their hands on their knees as the clock winds down in a long game.

Although the same prediction could be projected onto this year’s final, it shouldn’t be. There’s something to be said about a team who has yet again not only reached the finals, but demanded a rematch, fearlessly looked into the eyes of their conquerors, rubbed some dirt on their scratches, laced their boxing gloves back up, and personally rang the bell signaling round two. The Spurs fell off of the horse last year. This year they aren’t wasting any time, they’re getting right back on.

Now, predictions:

  1. Danny Green: Lets start with some facts. If Danny Green scores 16 or more points, statistics courtesy of ESPN.com have shown that over the last two years in the playoffs, the Spurs have gone 9-2. If Danny Green is covered by either Norris Cole or Mario Chalmers, he should be able to exploit his four-inch height advantage and score consistently off screens. If Spoelstra decides to put veteran shooting guard Shane Battier on Green, he will have to exploit Battier’s age by simply out running him. Battier has a two inch height advantage on Green so if he cant separate, he will have to elevate. If Green can score 20 or more points four times, the spurs can win this series. With Green scoring over twenty, The Spurs are 5-0 over the last two postseasons.
  2. Guard Health: All season, Tony Parker’s been in and out of the Lineup and the playoffs prove to be no exception. After injuring his ankle in the clincher of the Western Conference Finals, Parker’s game one status is in jeopardy. Although he has publicly stated he will play, his game revolves around his ability to make quick moves to the basket and a bum ankle won’t let him put the person defending him through the spin cycle. Dwyane Wade is also a question mark. Although he’s as healthy as he’s been in years, and clearly playing like it, Wades ability as a high, fast paced scorer will be needed to counteract those lethal 20+ points Green can inflict in the blink of an eye. Now the question of which guard has a higher value to the team.
Photo via www.usatoday.com
Photo via http://www.sanantoniospurs.com

In the 2012-2013 season, LeBron proved that even without Wade he has the ability to put the team on his back and carry them to success. If Wade is injured after winning at least one game, LeBron can surely win the other three on his own. If Tony Parker is injured though the Spurs don’t stand a chance. Unlike Wade, Parker’s game is more consistently three-dimensional and critical to his team’s success. Wade is an elusive scorer who when healthy still isn’t the defender he used to be. Parker is an elusive scorer, passer, and when healthy is a lock down defender. Every time Parker has the ball in his hands, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green all have significant amounts of attention taken off of them leading to easier baskets. Every time Parker beats his man and makes it into the lane every defender on the opposing team collectively loses their wits and tries to stop him leading to an open dish to Manu Ginobili for three or a no look pass to Tim Duncan for the best looking layup in the game. If Parker plays at 100% I think this Spurs team has what it takes to rob Pat Riley yet again of using his sacred, trademarked, “3-peat” while talking about one of his teams.

Photo via www.1045theteam.com
Photo via http://www.1045theteam.com
  1. LeBron James in Foul Trouble: As seen in game five of this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Miami is a different team when LeBron is on the bench. The only reason LeBron’s been near the bench at all during his tenure with Miami is foul trouble. Although rarely a problem because of LeBron’s unquestioned basketball IQ, foul trouble could tip this series. The horrendous post-all-star-break Pacers forced a game six this year while LeBron sat and watched. Gregg Popovich inevitably saw this game and smiled for two reasons. One, his Spurs are light years ahead of the Pacers talent-wise and team-congeniality-wise. Two, he found a crack in the levy known as LeBron James. Although Spoelstra was able to throw some duct tape on the levy and stop the floodgates from opening against Indiana, Spoelstra will need something truly effective to stop the ever-savvy Spurs from reopening that crack. If the Spurs can successfully get LeBron James into foul trouble for at least 2 games, they will win the NBA finals.

Written by Jacob Levinson, George Washington University

One thought on “The Knucklehead Report: What to Expect if… (The NBA Finals Edition) Leave a comment

  1. Good work on you Finals preview, though I disagree with a couple things. First, the Spurs have a better chance to win with Parker than the Heat without Wade. The won in OKC with Parker on the bench, and truthfully, the ball moves more for SA Offense when Ginobili is the PG. Also, the battle I want to see is the Spurs’ D vs. the Heat’s “others”. Against OKC, the Spurs did all they can to force the everybody except Durant and Westbrook to beat them. And last year, though LeBron was the best player, performances from Mike Miller, and Shane Battier killed them. Again, nice job on the article.

    Like

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