HOOP LOGIC with GOD FORBID’S DOC COYLE: FINALS FINALS FINALS FINALS
The NBA Finals Championship. Everybody wants some, so few get some. Even the NBA’s best come up short. Like Charles Barkley, ringless. And the great Reggie Miller? No. ‘Nique? Nope. Steve Nash? Not even close. It’s rough going. It takes a team.
Starting tonight, Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder engage the Lebron James-led Miami Heat for their shot at elusive NBA glory. Which team is destined to prevail this hotly-contested, evenly-matched bloodbath? Tough one! If anybody knows, it’s God Forbid guitarist/NBA sexpert Doc Coyle here on MetalSucks Hoop Logic. But first, Doc recaps the tumultuous, expectation-shattering conference finals!
So Doc, the simple truth is that Lebron James saved his Miami Heat from a 2-3 deficit in their series against the Boston Celtics. Is this a huge accomplishment for pro sports’ most scrutinized superstar?
DOC: The biggest accomplishment for the Heat has been the ability to rally in bad times. And this was not always the supergroup Miami Heatles storyline. This team has either dominated opponents or wilted in the face of adversity. Of everybody, LeBron James has come up biggest when his team was down in this post-season. He put up 40-18-9 in Game 4 against the Pacers when the Heat were looking up from a 1-2 hole; then he answered in Boston with a 45-15-5 game when his team trailed 2-3. Resilience is the most impressive thing. Coming back from a deficit shows heart.
I wonder if the injury to Chris Bosh was a blessing in disguise. It exposed the Miami Heat: Suddenly their bench seemed desperately thin, Dwayne Wade turned mortal and increasingly breakable, and coach Eric Spoelstra took fire for his heinous frontline of castaways going in and out of the starting line-up like it was a game of musical chairs. So Bosh getting hurt might’ve been the powder keg for this team. It was then that LeBron returned to his Cavs attitude (acknowledging that he is the best player in the world) and dominated the second half of this series. And Heat role players understood that they had to step up in order to win. Most of all, this team realized that Bosh is the difference between a very good Heat team and a great Heat team.
LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his career, but it will be overlooked again if he fails to win a championship. Remember LeBron was having a stellar 2011 playoff run last year before the Finals when he averaged only 17 points and disappeared late in games. Whatever happens with the upcoming Finals, Heat win or Heat lose, basketball fans need to appreciate this guy — he may be the most gifted athlete of this generation in any sport. Whether or not you like him, you have to admit he plays the game beautifully. Unselfish. Potentially the most versatile player ever.
I want to mention the admirable run by the 2011-2012 Boston Celtics. This team played with more guts than any team I’ve ever seen. If they were not so ravaged by injuries since their 2008 championship, they would have raised one or two more banners. But this year, the return of Chris Bosh was the difference.
After game 2, it looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder were to be swept by the methodical San Antonio Spurs. But then Thunder coach Scott Brooks moved his star defender onto Spurs G Tony Parker, a stratagem that stifled Parker, unraveled the Spurs offense, and enabled four straight Thunder wins. Are you amazed that Spurs supercoach Gregg Popovich, master of adjustments, was outmaneuvered like that?
DOC: The adjustments were fairly simple: They put Thabo Sefolosha on Parker and started switching against pick-and-roll offense. Stopping Parker turned out to be a key to the series because his teammate Tim Duncan didn’t play well enough to compensate — and Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka played great one-on-one defense. Duncan played like his classic self in the first two rounds, but that Duncan didn’t continue to show up. The Spurs could afford if one of those two had a subpar series, but not both.
To me, Popovich’s only real error was the move to put Ginobli into the starting line-up. It killed F Danny Green’s confidence, and although Ginobli scored like crazy when he was out there, the Spurs second unit lost their punch. Plus, he and Parker are the main ball-handlers for their respective units; together their awesome flows got disrupted.
But really, there are two reasons that OKC won: The Spurs were touted as the deepest team in the league, but the Thunder’s role players performed way above their heads while the Spurs support guys underperformed. No one predicted that Sefolosha would net 19 points and six steals in game 3, or that Ibaka would have 26 points on 12 of 12 shooting in game 5, or that Daequan Cook would score eight points in 3 minutes in game 6, and Nick Collison would play lights-out the entire series! And who would have guessed that the most consistent, complete team in the NBA would be plagued by no-shows from key contributors Danny Green, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw? And that Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard would turn invisible after game 2?
The other reason that OKC won is Kevin Durant did his best Michael Jordan impression, proving he is the NBA’s most dangerous scorer. It is very hard for a team to lose close games when they have that guy — even if their point guard turns it over three times in a row. Every time Durant shoots, I expect him to make it. He is unstoppable. Durant could be a better scorer than Jordan one day. He’s a better shooter, four inches taller, and just as speedy.
The Spurs didn’t lose this series. The Thunder flat out took it. I think the Spurs could have played much better in game 6, but really it seemed like the basketball gods were handing the torch to OKC. Calls went their way, bounces went their way — that’s how it works out sometimes. I feel for the Spurs (game 2 may have been the best offensive basketball I’ve ever seen in my life), but it just wasn’t meant to be.
This is what we all predicted would be the Finals at the beginning of the year and at the beginning of the post-season. The two best players in the world. The MVP and the runner-up. The weathered villain and the spritely new kid on the block. Oh, I almost forgot about Finals MVP and future Hall of Famer Dwyayne Wade, top-ten NBA talent Russell Westbrook, seven-time All Star Chris Bosh, and current Sixth Man of the Year winner James Harden. It doesn’t get any better than this. I expect a classic series for the ages.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Miami Heat (2)
Winner I am pleading the fifth. I have no idea who is going to win. Oklahoma City has the better all-around team and home court advantage, so they should be favored. But Miami has the edge in experience, and a bigger ax to grind since their finals loss last year. These playoffs have proven to me that we should expect the unexpected! Don’t count out either of these teams.
Series 4-3 Please lord let this go 7 games!!!
Doc’s Orders The superstars must play like superstars. I fully expect Kevin Durant to keep up his legendary play, though he has not faced a defender of LeBron James’s caliber in the playoffs yet because there is none. James cannot repeat his poor Finals performances of 2007 and 2011; he’ll have to maintain that killer instinct from the last two playoff rounds.
Will vintage D-Wade show up or will he continue to stutter early in games? Can Westbrook limit his turnovers and his terrible shot selection? Is Chris Bosh healthy enough to counteract the power of James Harden off the bench? Much like the Western Conference Finals, the NBA finals may be decided by role players.
OKC has a clear size advantage, so if their bigs own the boards and I-Blaka is swatting shots into the rafters, the Heat could be toast. Sharpshooter Mike Miller has to remind us he still plays for the Heat; Battier has to keep knocking down threes and dogging Thunder scorers with his crack defense. Most games will come down to late-game execution and strategy. Who will win the coaching game, Brooks or Spoelstra? Time will tell, but I couldn’t be more excited.
Doc’s Team I am rooting for the Heat. It is not easy to like them, but I have tired of the “LeBron doesn’t have a ring” narrative. His monumental punishment is disproportionate to his now-distant crime. It will be a relief to start talking about something else.
-Doc Coyle, God Forbid
Doc Coyle and God Forbid embark on the Trespass America tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage, Emmure, Pop Evil, Trivium, and Battlecross in July (dates here). Gab with Doc on the Twitter @Doc4bid!