Thursday, June 7, 2007

NBA Finals Preview - Sportsology Style.

Well since I last joined you, LeBron saved the finals by carrying the LeBronaliers to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Now they match with the San Antonio Spurs, who are aiming to win their 4th title in 9 years.

In previous years, the Spurs have been the boring team in the Finals. They were the good guys without flair, who played the game, kept their mouths shut, and won with good fundamentals and talent.

This year, they have a different vibe. Tim Duncan has become known as somewhat of a whiner now. Manu Ginobili is one of the most hated players in the league because he flops up and down the court, in addition to making a dirty play or two here or there. Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry, both on the decline of their careers, have gone into all out goon mode. And Tony Parker is dating one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, a good reason for all of us to hate him.

This, coupled with everybody wanting LeBron to become Jordan Jr., has created the potential for a good guys versus bad guys finals. Unfortunately for the good guys, they are extremely over matched.

Point Guard – Larry Hughes (CLE) vs. Tony Parker (SAS)

Tony Parker is one of the most prolific scoring point guards in the league. Larry Hughes has been a mega-million dollar disappointment for the Cavs during his past few seasons as a Cavalier. The oft injured guard has not been the Robin for LeBron’s Batman, despite showing some flashes of potential greatness, similar to Lamar Odom with the Lakers.

However, Larry Hughes is still a good defender and should be able to slow Tony Parker down, at least somewhat. Where Tony Parker will kill the Cavs is when they go to the bench. Eric Snow is 57 years old and has no chance of sticking with Parker. Daniel Gibson is a good rookie, but is far better on the offensive end. Hughes will not be able to play the type of minutes necessary to make this match up a wash.

Advantage Spurs

Shooting Guard – Sasha Pavlovic (CLE) vs. Michael Finley (SAS)

Interesting fact: Michael Finley only made $300,000 less money than Tim Duncan this past season. Finley, who was the 19th highest paid athlete this past season, has Mark Cuban to thank for that. The Mavs used the “Allan Houston rule" to release Finley, even though he has a lot left in the tank.

Now he will be able to exploit Sasha Pavlovic, the promising but young Cavaliers shooting guard. Maybe getting abused by Finley and Ginobili will help Pavlovic develop a consistent third wheel to go with LBJ and Larry Hughes.

Advantage Spurs

Small Forward – LeBron James (CLE) vs. Bruce Bowen (SAS)

LeBron James is not the best player in the NBA. I’d still give that to Kobe. Steve Nash is infinitely more valuable to his team than LeBron is to the Cavaliers. That said, he’s the reason why Cleveland is here. He put together two good games to even up the Detroit series at 2-2, had an epic game 5, and another good game in the final game.

However, enough is enough with the LeBron hype. It’s going to take a non-referee aided finals victory to get me on his bandwagon. Bruce Bowen is no different than anybody else that defends LeBron, except he’s probably a dirtier player. The difference is always with what type of game LeBron decides to play, and how good the opposing coach is. Popovich is the best in the game, so he’ll have a good scheme set up. It’s up to LeBron to make ‘Pop’ use some of the tricks he has up his sleeve.

Advantage Cavs

Power Forward – Drew Gooden (CLE) vs. Tim Duncan (SAS)

Tim Duncan might end up as the greatest power forward of all time. Drew Gooden will have a tough time stopping him from getting his 4th NBA Finals MVP Award. Gooden is definitely a serviceable player, and he will at times make Duncan work. I expect him to eventually become overwhelmed and Duncan will probably have at least one 30/15/5 game.

Advantage Spurs

Center – Zydrunas Ilgauskus (CLE) vs. Francisco Elson (SAS)

This is really a match up between Big Z and the Elson/Fabricio Oberto combination. The Spurs combo plays good defense, rebounds, harasses, and makes dunks and layups. Don’t expect them to do much else.

Big Z is very skilled, but very old. He’s slow as crap and he often hinders the Cavs offense. They could be a much more prolific offense if they were able to play a faster tempo. Z is good to run the offense through when LeBron is out of the game, because he’s the only other player on the team that can make the defense have to make some decisions.

Advantage Cavs


The Spurs have a serviceable backup at every position. They also have Manu Ginobili coming off the bench; he’s probably one of the 20 or 25 best players in the NBA. He gives the Spurs energy while pissing pretty much everybody else off who doesn’t have a rooting interest in them. Love him or hate him, you have to respect his game, in particular his ability to make crazy shots.

The Cavs have a decent bench. Varejao, another flopper, gives them energy. Donyell Marshall, Daniel Gibson, and Damon Jones provide shooting. That’s about all you’re going to get worth mentioning from that group. O yeah, Eric Snow is really old.

Advantage Spurs


We have one of the league’s worst coaches versus a coach that has to start getting consideration as one of the all-time greats. Mike Brown, the Cavaliers coach, is here only because LeBron brought him here. He’s kinda like the Raptors coach Sam Mitchell (reigning NBA Coach of the Year); a bad coach that gets props because his team somehow wins despite of his poor coaching. This year’s coach of the year award should’ve either went to Avery Johnson or Greg Popovich, regular season, and overall definitely to ‘Pop.’ He’s going to work Mike Brown

Advantage Spurs

Prediction – Spurs d. Cavaliers 4-1

The Cavs will probably be overwhelmed by the scenery in Game 1 and lose big. (Sidebar: On Sportscenter a few nights ago, they showed a video clip of Cavaliers players with their video cameras on the “I’m just happy to be here tip.” This is almost routine for the Spurs.)

Game 2 will be close, but the Spurs will pull it out on the home court advantage, open 3’s tip.
Game 3 will be the “LeBron” game. After Game 3, pundits will say the Cavs will get back in it, LeBron is the next Jordan, best player in the league, etc.

Game 4 will be the Ginobili/Parker/Horry/Bowen villain game. It might go something like Game 5 of the Phoenix series. Phoenix was very close to doing the unthinkable, beating the Spurs without Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw. However, the Spurs came back in the fourth quarter and Bruce Bowen hit the go ahead three in the corner that probably made every Suns fan scream the F word.

Game 5 will be Duncan’s “I’m the best player of this generation” game. Like Simmons pointed out today, he closed out the Nets series with a ridiculous 21/20/10/8 game in the 2003 Finals. I’ll pencil him in for 33/19/7/6 for this year’s series finale.

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