Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ten Predictions for Game 7

In the words of Zaza Pachulia: "We going to Game 7 baby!" At some point in every game, I've lost my shit at how good these guys are playing. Game 6 deserves its own blog and there's still another game tonight. So, in lieu of us writing nothing about this series so far (although I did predict this finals sort of), I'll give ten quick predictions for tonight.

Funniest face (non-Bosh division) goes to Danny Green, then LeBron,
then Kawhi for cracking his smile.

1. The Heat will win the series.

Going into this series, I thought the Heat had a higher ceiling than the Spurs, but would not reach it as consistently. The Spurs have proven that wrong. However, the Heat are at home which gives a huge boost to their role players and the quick turnaround will be harder for the Spurs.

2. Tony Parker will be awesome, but only for a small portion of the game.

Parker hurting his hamstring has hamstrung the Spurs this entire series. He's the best point guard in the league, but clearly does not have 100% of his mobility and energy. This hurts the Spurs on offense obviously, but also on defense because a healthy Parker could exhaust LeBron running around screens. Parker will have a double-digit points quarter, but he is not going to carry this team offensively like he could in the regular season.

3. Erik Spoelstra will have to make an incredibly difficult decision with Dwyane Wade.

This one is incredibly obvious, but worth saying nonetheless. The Heat have an offensive efficiency of 131 without Wade and 100 with him. It's part because he's hurt, part because he is taking bad shots, and more than anything else, because he's not a three-point threat. The Spurs have effectively guarded LeBron with guys like Danny Green and Boris Diaw not because they have a Roy Hibbert-like presence down low, but because they can throw an extra guy in the lane with Wade on the floor. When Wade is replaced by Mike Miller or Shane Battier, all of a sudden LeBron can drive. It's simple to see why Wade should get fewer minutes. However, he's still capable performing like we saw in Game 5 and he is/was (depending on the night) a huge superstar. Being an NBA coach seems like the worst.

4. Gregg Popovich will never admit it, but not fouling up 3 was a huge mistake.

With 18 seconds left, the Heat had to bring the ball all the way up the court. The Spurs could have fouled Mario Chalmers with 13 seconds left or Chris Bosh (inside the arc) with eight seconds left. Instead, they didn't do that "European" shit. Maybe Pop was just worried that the Spurs' lack of a lights-out free throw shooter would doom them. But fouling up 3, especially when the Heat can't advance the ball, was the right call in my mind, and I think Pop made a rare mistake.

5. The game will turn on role players making their 3s.

The Heat's offense is at its best when it generates open corner threes. If Battier, Chalmers, and Miller can make five or more threes, the scoring load will shift away from Wade's hesitant one-on-one game and go towards a spread floor orchestrated by LeBron in the post or on the drive.

The Spurs are going to get at best six good quarters between Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan. They need guys like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and even Gary Neal to make threes. Danny Green might be regressing a bit, but he's still a damn good shooter, and the Spurs' fate will be in his God-touched hands.

6. Udonis Haslem and Norris Cole won't play.

Spoelstra is smart enough to cut these out. Cole can't guard anyone and Haslem kills the Heat's spacing. This isn't the series for these two and that's fine. Cole can still jump super high.

7. The referees will swallow their whistles in the fourth quarter.

The last thing anyone wants is for this series to come down to a foul call. Ginobili might have been hacked a bit on his last drive in overtime, but I agree that that shouldn't be a foul call at that point in time. The refs made a huge mistake allowing Duncan to sub in (despite there being no timeouts and it just being a video review) and they really do not want to be any part of the story.*

* This doesn't apply if Joey Crawford is reffing.

8. No matter the outcome, we'll be subjected to another year of stupid talk about LeBron's legacy.

We get it, he's the best player in the league. That doesn't mean we need to re-gauge his legacy after every performance. LeBron is 28 years old, he's won four MVPs and two gold medals, and he's going to win more rings. If Duncan wins, we don't need to immediately discuss how it affects his standing historically.

I get that we want to put things in context and we like to overvalue small sample sizes. That's our nature and it's largely unavoidable. However, these stupid debates don't make basketball more enjoyable to me and I bet most people would agree that they detract from the overall experience. It's almost like the joy of experiencing the best at their peaks is immediately boxed and packaged into a 45-second talking head segment. It's okay for us to just, you know, watch basketball, think about the actual strategy of the game taking place, and appreciate how good these guys are at their jobs. This ESPN-ification of basketball has taken silly arguments you'd have with your friends where no one can actually be right into a serious Stephen A. Smith scream-a-thon about legacy, heart, championship pedigree, and comparisons to Jordan. Enough already.

9. The quality of play will be lackluster.

The combination of nerves and exhaustion that comes from 100 games and less than 48 hours after Game 6 will cause this game to be ugly. That's okay. Game 7 of the Celtics-Lakers in 2010 was ugly, but the stakes and intensity overcome the quality of play (this is the entire premise of college basketball). It's cliche to say, but these guys are just going to empty the tank. That doesn't lend itself to pretty basketball - I'd bet the under.

10. This game is going to be fucking awesome and I can't wait.

Sports are the best.

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