The NBA Finals has been as entertaining as advertised between two teams with great talent playing at the highest level. It appears that today's media always has to have a scapegoat when a team loses. When Miami lost Game 1, it was Dwayne Wade. Many pointed out that he was underperforming.
When the Thunder came up short in Game 2, Russell Westbrook was widely criticized for playing selfishly and not feeding the ball to his team's best player, Kevin Durant. Criticism is sometimes warranted; however, what many analysts fail to mention is that these players are only playing like they always have. Maybe the other team was just better that night.
D-Wade averaged 22 point, 4 assists, and 5 rebound, during the regular season. In the Heat's loss he had 19 points 8 assists and 4 rebounds. In their win he had 24pts, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds. These numbers are fairly consistent. Wade is a streaky player at this point in his career.
The Boston Celtics would not go down easy, however, in the end youth prevailed as the Miami Heat used a late fourth quarter surge to make a return trip to the NBA Finals. On Tuesday, June 11, the Heat will take on a rested and eager Oklahoma City Thunder squad. The Heat and Thunder split the regular season series, both winning at home. This should be a terrific Finals matchup.
These two teams are the most talented in the NBA. Miami's players are in the prime of their careers. The Thunder have been billed as the team of the future. The future is now and the Thunder look poised to contend for years to come. The Thunder were put together through great draft picks, Miami came together primarily through free agency. LeBron James was the regular season MVP, Kevin Durant was the runner-up MVP. The Heat have a super trio of their own in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Thunder have their own in Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the player whose game and appearance represents all old school ballers, 23-year-old James Hardin.
Living in Atlanta, I am accustomed to franchises not paying top dollar for championship caliber teams while enticing fans into thinking that they will be indulging in champagne while operating on a beer budget. The Hawks product has been entertaining, however, no one believes the Hawks will be winning a championship anytime soon.
Two years ago, the Miami Heat acquired three of the top ten players in the NBA: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Instead of getting a top-tier coach to shape this elite talent into a championship team, Heat President Pat Riley decided to stick with former team videographer, Eric Spoelstra, as the team's head coach. That's like taking a 2012 Aston Martin to Jiffy Lube for service.
Both of the NBA's 2012 Conference Finals series' have been a tale of two cities. Home teams have won in a dominating fashion. No visiting team has won in the first 7 games. A few days ago, people were ready to crown the San Antonio Spurs champions and name them one of the all-time great NBA teams after their convincing home wins. Shots that were easy at home are now hitting the back of the rim on the road.
Tony Parker seemed unstoppable in San Antonio, but is now a mere mortal while averaging 12 points fewer than he did at home. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is a scoring machine in Oklahoma. The same holds true in the Eastern Conference, as momentum has shifted back to the hometown Boston Celtics.
What's the big difference in playing at home? Familiarity with surroundings is a key reason. Also, the support and noise the home fans make can be energizing. However, NBA analyst Fred Carter who thinks that role players make the difference made the one hypothesis that stands out.
The NBA playoffs have been filled with dominating performances by superstar players. Lebron James and Dwayne Wade for Miami. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo for Boston and Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili for San Antonio. However, the most riveting single performance thus far has been that of San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker. I recently wrote that Chris Paul was the best point guard in the NBA. I now amend that and place Paul and Tony Parker on equal footing, with a slight edge going to Parker. Parker's three championships rings separate the two.
Due to his speed and quickness, Parker is a difficult cover for any defender. He has given Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, one of the most athletic guards in the NBA, fits while Westbrook tries to defend him in the Spurs pick and roll offense. Parker is great at using a teammate's pick to allow him to separate from his defender. He is then able to make a basket by shooting a jump shot or taking it close to the basket and finishing with an array of floaters or runners. He is adept with both hands and can finish with either. He is also a master dribbler which allows him to get anywhere on the court he would like.