Chris Bosh scored zero points in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. He was outplayed in the Eastern Confernce finals by David West and Roy Hibbert, depending on whether Chris Andersen or Udonis Haslem was playing alongside him. He appears to be a shell of the alpha dog who resided in Toronto until 2010.
Seems like all I am doing with my Friday is interview after interview bashing Gregg Popovich.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Pop. I’ve covered him with the Spurs and Team USA since 2002.
When he is chippy with the media, he is never directing that chippiness at me (you have to know HOW to ask a proper question, or you are dead meat).
But he is open to some serious second-guessing, and that’s what I did in this interview on NBCSports AM1060 in Phoenix.
You do not leave your best offensive player on the bench for the most important offensive play of Game 6 and Game 7.
You do not leave your best defensive player on the bench for the most critical rebounding opportunity of Game 6.
Congratulations, Gregg Popovich. You deserved to lose the NBA Finals.
More on that, plus a Nixon v. McGovern reference, in this interview from Friday with Bob Valvano of ESPN680 The Zone in Louisville.
The next time someone refers to Gregg Popovich as a “genius” they should include the qualifier “part-time.”
The haters can feel free to use the word “idiot” — although in my opinion that’s taking it a little too far.
Through the first six games of the NBA Finals, there was just one really important thing the Miami Heat just could not seem to accomplish offensively: successfully integrating Dwyane Wade and LeBron James together on the floor.
Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra found the right group of players to pair with LeBron to succeed offensively against the stingy San Antonio Spurs defense. James was put at the power forward position and paired with Mario Chalmers (who can handle, shoot and ably execute the pick-and-roll), a nominal big man (usually Birdman Andersen) and a rotating cast of 3-point shooters so eloquently described by Chris Ballard as “spacers.”
The problem was that when Wade was on the floor with James, this rhythmic flow of pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick, and pick-and-pop was disrupted by Wade’s space-eating, ball-stopping, isolationist play on offense. And Miami was suffering mightily because of it. As described in Wednesday’s StatBox column, LeBron was a minus-56 with Wade on the floor through the first six games of the Finals and plus-48 without him.
On Thursday night, in a Game 7 which James described as the biggest game of his life, the two superstars finally found a way to not only efficiently coexist with one another, but to thrive together on the floor and deliver Miami its second straight title, 95-88 over the Spurs.
“It took everything we had as a team,” Wade said after the game. “This is the hardest series we ever had to play. But we’re a resilient team and we did whatever it took.”
James had a Game 7 performance for the ages, scoring 37 points on 12-for-23 shooting and 5-for-10 from three, tying Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn for the most points scored by a Game 7 Finals winner in history, but it was the strong play of Wade that helped Miami win its second straight game for the first time since winning its final game against Chicago in the second round and Game 1 of the Eastern Finals against Indiana. Wade did disrupt the flow of the “LeBron & Friends” offense at times, but his jump shot on Thursday was superb, to the tune of an 11-for-21 night with 23 points. And not only did the duo combine for 60 points, they corralled a combined 22 rebounds as well.
“Just give credit to the Miami Heat. LeBron was unbelievable. Dwyane was great. I just think they found a way to get it done,” Duncan said. “We stayed in the game. We gave ourselves opportunities to win the game. We just couldn’t turn that corner.”
Miami was able to turn the corner in large part because of its capable spacer du jour, Shane Battier. Battier was benched for a couple of games, in favor of Mike Miller, because of his spotty play, but he transitioned from spotty to on-the-spot at just the right time. When the Spurs defense broke down and the inevitable double-team came James’ way, Battier was ready to set his feet and launch. Battier ended up with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting, all from three, and his second NBA title to show for it.
The Heat’s top nominal big man of the night was ultimately the Birdman, who was a plus-11 in 19 minutes of play and made up for the no-show that was Chris Bosh. Bosh managed to not score a single point in the biggest game of his life, while registering a plus-one in 28 minutes played.
Mario Chalmers may not have had the best shooting game, he scored 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting and 1-for-7 from three, but he was a huge help defensively in the second half. San Antonio did a really good job of driving to the basket in the first half, while it seemed like Miami settled for jumpers during the first 24 minutes. Those roles basically reversed in the second half, with Miami as the active aggressors and San Antonio unable to find its way into the paint enough.
A lot of that second half success on defense had to do with LeBron’s incredible defense on Tony Parker, who had just 10 points and four assists on 3-for-12 shooting, but for taking care of its pesky Danny Green problem. Miami said it would contain Green after his great Game 5, and it did more than that. Not only did Green miss 11 of his 12 shots on Thursday, he dribbled himself into trouble on two notably important occasions, leading to turnovers and Heat points on the other end. And while Manu Ginobili showed us glimpses of his acrobatic, whirling-dervish style of play, his key late turnovers essentially ensured the Heat of its title.
It would make a lot of sense for Miami to employ the “LeBron & Spacers” lineup going forward, but the Heat needed one last effort from Wade to take the title. On Thursday night, Miami’s largest problem quickly turned into its most celebrated solution.
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.