A Quick NBA Finals Prediction
Last week, I wrote about the Western Conference champs and a few days ago, about the Miami Heat going to a game seven, so I’ve already written a bunch about the Finals already. But here’s a few more loose thoughts and a prediction for the Finals, which start tonight.
- Miami’s Big Three had their best game in some time on Monday night: Wade had 21 points and nine rebounds and Bosh scored nine and grabbed eight. I don’t think it’s a sign that Miami is back at full speed – it’s hard to look past Bosh going three-of-13 on Monday and Wade’s assist numbers are still lagging – but it’s a reason to be optimistic if you like the Heat.
- And what about James? His game seven wasn’t quite a masterpiece, but he was dominating throughout the game and when the Heat pulled him with about five minutes left, it was something like a victory cigar. Like I wrote for The Good Point, we’re seeing something else from him this spring: his play is reaching new levels for the Heat. He’s carrying the team like he carried Cleveland back in the day, but he’s a more complete player now, too. It’s don’t think it’s too crazy to think he’ll tip a game or two single-handedly.
- I don’t believe in momentum, so I don’t think Miami’s on a roll or a high from winning game seven. Even if I did subscribe to the journalistic clichés, what’s that supposed to mean: Miami lost game six, remember? And they didn’t win two games in a row, so what kind of streak is this supposed to be? If anything, they’d be more frazzled than the Spurs, who’ve had a long, long rest after sweeping Memphis. But I don’t really believe in things like that either: Miami’s had a few days off to regroup and they’re professional athletes to boot. You or I might need a few days to recover from the emotional high of winning a toughly-fought seven game series. Professionals athletes, I’d argue, don’t: these are the scenarios they train for.
- Miami comes into this series with 66 regular season wins, the second-best SRS in the league, a season sweep of the Spurs and a higher offensive rating, not to mention the best player in basketball. The only on-paper thing I see in San Antonio’s favor is their defensive ranking: their 101.6 points per 100 possessions is third-best in the league. But these are all from the regular season, which has been over for a long time now. Keep this in mind when the pundits try to preview the series tonight. I see things more like this: Miami looked great against Milwaukee and pretty good against a shifty Bulls team. They looked less good against Indiana, a strong defensive team that ran a lot of inside plays. San Antonio? They pounded a crippled Laker team, had a tough series against Golden State (who don’t really remind me of the Heat) and won a closer-than-it-looked series against Memphis, who were a strong defensive team with a dominant center.
- One cliche I’ll subscribe to: the Spurs look like a team that’s peaking at the right time. They did struggle in stretches against Memphis, who nearly came back and stole game two, but got stops in opportune moments, like when Memphis could’ve scored at the buzzer in game three, and outlasted them in overtime twice. I think Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the game right now and trust him enough to figure out how to limit Bosh and Wade. I don’t think you can limit James, who will probably have a monster game or two. But that’s okay: Indiana showed you can beat Miami by keeping the big three ineffective, by making Wade and Bosh take bad shots and wind up shooting something like 30 per cent. James may be able to steal a game or two, but he can’t win a series by himself.
- Prediction: San Antonio in six with
Tracy McGradyTony Parker as series MVP.