Thursday, June 5, 2014
Behind The Scoreboard
Playoffs best ever
It was pointed out in this column a few weeks ago that conference finals were being played among “one’s” and “two’s.” It has been clearly evident that these were, indubitably, the best representatives – not to say that there haven’t been some occasions for temporary disappointments. However, the overall sentiment prevails that these playoff series have been the best ever. I am sure that the point will be argued.
As entertaining and interesting as the first four games were in both finals, the games five carried the greatest implications. They could be thought of, in essence, as elimination contests. That statement might sound a little weird, ambiguous even. The Thunder and Spurs went into game four with San Antonio holding a 2-1 advantage. There had been some hints (in this column) that the Spurs were “aging” and the Thunder were “upstarts.” But this wasn’t tennis and regardless of how much the series resembled the old fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” this wasn’t it. The Thunder came alive in game five, giving the Spurs more than a run for their money. The always stoic Gregg Popovich, unsmiling as usual, pulled his top players out during the latter portion of the third quarter, actually conceding the victory to Oklahoma. The Thunder nation was ecstatic; however, if anyone noticed, Coach Popovich did not appear dismayed, even with the prospect of game six being in OKC.
Now over to the “White Hot Heat.” The situation was similar but the Pacers appeared to have learned nothing from the films they viewed of their games with the King and his court buddies. James was embarrassed by his performance in game five. His game total of seven points was the lowest in his playoff career. Then the media had to go and start releasing all the tweets and twitters. The King was already embarrassed; now this made him mad. He had consistently endured harassment from Lance Stephenson throughout the playoffs, pinches in the side in close quarters, blowing in the ear (he was probably lucky in this instance since he wasn’t being guarded by Mike Tyson), and a pocketful of other annoyances not tagged by the officials. Just imagine a player doing this to Dennis Rodman or Charles Barkley. The way the Heat played in game six, the old Harlem Globetrotters couldn’t have beaten them.
I for one was pulling for this series to go the full seven. It was just too entertaining. However, deep down I knew it was over for the Pacers after James’ press conference. No way was he going to let this go past game six. The Heat becomes only the third team in NBA history to go to four consecutive finals in four seasons. It was last done by the Boston Celtics in ’84-’87.
The game six for the Spurs and Thunder started slowly but built up to the usual raw, bare bones contest in the fourth quarter. Even when the Spurs blew a 12-point lead with Tony Parker on the bench, I still knew that the Spurs would close it out on Monday if not on Saturday. “Age” and experience won out over “upstart” and inexperience, however, as the Spurs closed in overtime.
My good friend Dan Wright called me from Chicago on Sunday and stated that he had been leaning towards the Spurs in the finals until they blew that last quarter lead. Dan says now that he has to go with the Heat.
My prediction was that if the finals came down to a faceoff between the Heat and the Spurs, I would have to choose Miami. I stand by that.
This is one for trivia, in case you are ever asked – the NBA player who has played in more playoff games than anyone in history is the Thunder’s Derek Fisher. Here’s another one – Gregg Popovich finally smiled at a press conference Saturday night. There is a rumor that Tim Duncan tried it once years ago but gave it up after the costs of plastic surgery to repair his face.
I don’t believe that – that he smiled, I mean.
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