Thursday, June 6, 2013

The NBA Finals: So Many Questions, Who Will Answer?

Tonight. 8:30. Miami. San Antonio. The NBA Finals.  Don't worry - we've answered the 10 most important questions so you don't have to.

Here we are - the Finals have arrived. Are you surprised this is the match-up we ended up getting?

Brian: Not at all. Everyone and their grandmother had the Heat representing the East, and although I had picked the Thunder at the beginning of the season, the loss of Westbrook immediately flipped my pick to the Spurs. You don't win 58 games by accident.

Jack: Not really. We knew it would take a stroke of really bad injuries luck for Miami not to make it to this point.  I think the Spurs may draw some motivation from all the "Westbrook getting hurt completely changed the West" talk.  Or at least I hope they do.

Paul: Before the season started, only one of ESPN's panel of 35 experts picked this particular matchup in the finals, so on one hand, this finals matchup is pretty surprising. That being said, everybody expected Miami in the East, and San Antonio brought every piece back from the West's best regular season team last year, so for anybody thinking objectively, it shouldn't have been a surprise at all.

How many games will Joey Crawford be prominently involved in?

Brian: At least 2. He might be involved in every game played at Miami, if David Stern has his way. I'm already giddy for the inevitable Tim Duncan technical just because Joey Crawford feels like it.

Jack: 1.6, after inadvertently ejecting himself with Norris Cole in the 3rd quarter of his second game refing.

Paul: The only person both delusional enough and power-hungry enough to consider letting Joey Crawford ref a Finals game is...David Stern. Crap. I'll say 2.

On a scale of 1-10 how excited are you for this Finals series?

Brian: 8.5 - I can't give it a 10 because I hate both of these teams. That being said, they are clearly the best 2 teams in the league, and play extremely smart, precision basketball. As a basketball nerd, I'm salivating. Ok, I just bumped myself to a 9.5.

Jack: 7.1.  I don't want the Heat to win...I think that's well documented.  So I can't be too excited.  But it is going to be a ridiculously high quality series.  Which is great.

Paul: Surprisingly, I'm about a 9.2 - not because I like either team, but because I expect to see basketball played at an extremely high level all series, even in pressure situations, with a lot of scoring thrown in. Throw in the 8-10 future hall of famers competing or coaching (and the unintentional comedy of Popovich's halftime interviews) and I expect to see the most entertaining finals since at least 2009. Bump this up to a 13.4 if the Spurs win and Popovich busts out this dance again:

Pick out one "key" to this series.

Brian: Kawhi Leonard. His ability to guard Lebron (mostly) without help and make corner 3's may just decide this series. Runner up goes to Juwan Howard, who continues to be on the best roster in the NBA despite being 73 years old.

Jack: Spot up shooters vs. Spot up shooters.  Who hits more of their open looks? Bonner, Leonard, Ginobli, Green, and Diaw (yikes)?  Or Chalmers, Cole, Allen, Battier, and Miller (yikes)?

Paul: Will the Spurs' role players rise to the moment? Both Green and Leonard have had outstanding games this postseason, but both struggled in some pressure situations in the Golden State series, and that is nothing compared to the intensity of the finals. If they stay calm, I'm not sure how Miami defends them, but if they tense up, it could be a quick series for the Heat.

Will Tim Duncan's eyes literally bug out of his head after he is called for a foul?

Brian: Yes.

Jack: Cause of retirement....

Paul: Already happened - he'll have to use those newly-discovered arms to reset his eyes after every call Joey Crawford makes all series.

Which do you hate more: Ginoboli's bald spot, or Lebron's receding hairline?

Brian: Tough call, but I gotta go with the bald spot. At least wear a yarmulke on that thing. Jiminy fucking cricket.

Jack: I can empathize with Lebron.  But in 20 years I expect I'll look like Ginobli and pretend I can play like him.  So I'll hate on Lebron more.

Paul: Lebron seems truly embarrassed to have a hairline that roughly resembles my father's at the tender age of 28. Ginobli, on the other hand, rocks the tremendous bald spot look without shame, and has done so since at least 2007, haters be damned. In response to the question, I'll take the hairline.

Lebron said he is now 50 times better than he was when the Heat played the Spurs in the '07 Finals. While this is obviously an exaggeration (just like his "not one...not two...not three....claim), how much better would you say he is?

Brian: At least 75% better. Lebron is SkyNet, and he has become self-aware. You are all fucked.

Jack: In 2007 Lebron was one of the best...5? 6? players in the league?  Perhaps that is under-rating him based on who else was on his team.  But now he is undeniably the best player in the league.  And much smarter and composed mentally.  I'll give him 1.8 times better, and let Kanye do the rest: older, better, faster, stronger.

Paul: Lebron at 50x better than 2007 would have to average about 1400 points a game, so, yeah, he's not 50x better. I do think he's 50% better than he was, which is terrifying when you consider he took a starting backcourt of Daniel "Boobie" Gibson and Sasha Freaking Pavlovic (no, seriously) to the NBA finals.

In two sentences or less, how would you play Lebron if you were Popovich?

Brian: Let him go crazy. I don't care if he averages 40 a game - if you let him find open shooters off the drive, the Spurs are toast.

Jack: (1) Build a time machine.  (2) Go back in time and tell Frank Vogel to play Hibbert at the end of Game 1.

Paul: Play him straight up with players his size or smaller, and hope he doesn't decide to work in the post. Avoid letting his teammates beat you and force him to shoot jump shots.

One role player is going to have a monster game and swing a game by himself. Who will that be? Shane Battier? Patty Mills?!?

Brian: Patty Mills!!! In all likelihood it's going to be Shane Battier having one of those "unconscious bad guy" halves where he hits 4 3's in a row.

Jack: Matt Bonner...but you know why?  Every three he hits deflates the other team by about 4.3 times more than anyone else in the whole league hitting a 3 (except Javale McGee).  He hits two in a row and Chalmers will be lying under the bench in tears.

Paul: There is a proud history of role players stepping up huge in big Finals moments: Robert Horry, P.J. Brown, Nate Robinson/Glen Davis, etc. The most likely guy this year? None other than the sandwich man himself, the Red Rocket, Matt Bonner! Shoots the lights out from 3, has unveiled a nice lefty running hook this postseason, and has 6 hard fouls to give. Let's just say this (quoted from elsewhere): Matt Bonner is here to chew gum and cash 3's...and he's all out of gum.

So who wins?

Brian: Heat in 7. Too much Lebron, too much Joey Crawford, too much David Stern.

Jack: Spurs. Too much rest if the series goes long. Too many favorable match-ups (I know no one can guard Lebron, but the Spurs hold advantages at the point and inside).  The Heat's home court advantage worries me, but they've lost 2 games at home already this year.  The Spurs close it out...on their home 6 games.  Oops...I've been called out - the Finals are a 2-3-2 format, which means the Spurs will be closing it out...on Miami's floor.  Oops.

Paul: I'd like to say Duncan will be inspired by his last chance to win the finals, but we all know he's a cyborg and the Spurs will be just as good next year. Also, the demise of Wade and Bosh has been greatly overstated in the media - these guys are still all-star players. I'll say Heat in 6.

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