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NBA Finals – Predictions Up in Flames

So once again, the Spurs and Heat have proven that very few people can accurately predict sports – myself especially.  As this series has gone on, back and forth throughout, I’ve heard countless reasons for certain players’ successes and failures and plenty of bold predictions on how the rest of the NBA Finals will play out – and in retrospect, none of us seemed to know what the hell we were talking about.

If I came up to you the day before the Finals started and told you that despite the fact none of the games will be close down the stretch, the series would be a back-and-forth affair, you’d probably tell me that my prediction doesn’t make much sense.  How about this: “LeBron James and Tim Duncan will have some real difficulty scoring at times, which will lead to blowout losses for both of them.  But of course the best, most outlandish prediction that would prove true about these finals has to be: Danny Green will shoot 70% from beyond the arc, and break Ray Allen’s record for most 3-pointers in the NBA Finals.

Prior to these past five games being played, these claims would sound like nonsense.  But looking at it from where we are now, the predictions that were made by my friends and I – as well as a majority of the so-called experts – prove to be the actual nonsense.  That’s sports for ya’, you think you have a pretty good grasp on the general way a matchup will play out and afterwards, you feel like you understand it less than when you started.

Seriously, I can’t get over how ridiculous this Danny Green story is getting.  As of right now, he is in position to win Finals MVP – an award that ALWAYS goes to the superstars like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James. A couple of games ago, I said that I figured the law of averages would play out and Green would start to look like the player we all thought he was – a young journeyman that’s been sent to the D-League not so long ago. Looking ahead, I’m at the point now where I’m half convinced that he will continue to shoot out of his mind for the last two games, as unlikely as history says that is. 

I still think that it is vital for Wade to continue to have the greater role that he’s had as of late, but it has to be priority number one for the Miami Heat to stop Green from getting these wide-open looks that he is still getting.  That may mean giving less help at times to cover a driving Tony Parker, but at this point, you can’t assume Green is going to cool down.


NBA Finals Hinges on Wade

Now that the series is guaranteed to head back to Miami for a sixth game, my prediction of Heat in 5 is no longer a possibility.  I should have figured that the apathetic Miami team would show up at least once, but oh well.  One thing I can point to and say “I told you so” was the importance of Dwyane Wade.  I know it isn’t the boldest of predictions, but his significance can’t be overstated. 

If the Heat are to have any hope of repeating, Wade needs to accept a much larger role like he did in Game 4.  I’m not entirely sure why he hasn’t been playing like this all series It might be the knee, but I don’t think that’s the reason – not all of it, at least.  I think the biggest reason why we’ve seen a lesser Wade is because he has been forced to be a piece of the puzzle  rather than operating independent of LeBron and everyone else on the court, like he did when he was carrying Miami in his ’06 days.

This team is built around James – as it should be, he is the best player in the world – but Wade works best when he is attacking, not waiting on LeBron to drive and dish out to him.  He’s a superstar, and shouldn’t be waiting for his turn like the other role players.

Since LeBron so often assumes the role of the distributor, the team needs Wade to shoot more often and attack the rim whenever the opportunity presents itself.  We all know he has the ability to be a primary shot-taker – at least when he’s healthy enough – and the team will benefit if he embraces this like he did on Thursday.  Wade and James combined for 70 of the Heat’s shots, and that’s the way it should be.

So even though my predictions at the beginning of this series haven’t been entirely accurate, I’m standing by the claim that Wade is the determining factor in this series.  He didn’t assert himself as early in the Finals as I thought he would, but he’s finally made his presence felt (better late than never).  If he remains healthy and maintains that same intensity and killer instinct, I think Miami is in great shape to win another title.  That’s an enormous “if” though, seeing as the only consistent thing about Wade lately has been his inconsistency. 

Here’s hoping that Wade comes to play in these last two or three games, just so I can look back on this series and say I wasn’t completely wrong (I’m looking at you, Danny Green). 


NBA Finals Check-In

Heat Spurs Finals 2 picWhich player has surprised you in a good way?

Nick Wershing: The two players I would say have surprised in a good way are Ray Allen and Danny Green. Both are only the fourth option at best for their teams, but there are shooting a high percentage in the limited looks they get.

Evan Sally: Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs have surprised me thus far with their play. While many of the Spurs players faltered after Game 1, including the veteran trio of Parker, Duncan and Ginobli, Leonard and Green have proven to be the only constants so far. Leonard has impressed with his rebounding and defense on LeBron James and Green has not allowed the big state of The Finals intimidate him, going 6 for 6 from the field shooting for 17 points, including hitting all 5 shot he took behind the 3 point arc.

Jim Bearor: The first name that comes to mind is Danny Green.  His uncanny shooting might have been the only reason the Spurs were competitive in Game 2 as long as they were.  So since I expected Dwyane Wade to dominate him throughout this series, I would have to say that he has surprised me the most.  He looks just as composed as any of San Antonio’s veteran players – which is impressive enough in itself – but he has also been flat-out outshining some of his teammates, most notably Manu Ginobli.
Which player has disappointed you so far?

NW: I would say Kawhi Leonard. Coming into the series, he was
supposed to be the x-factor for the Spurs, but he has not shown up either game.
And while LeBron has been slowed down, I do not attribute it to Leonard, but
instead to the Spurs as a whole.

ES: Can someone tell Manu Ginobli the series has started? The future Hall of Famer has disappointed in Games 1 and 2, shooting a combined 6 for 17 from the field for only 18 points. San Antonio was able to steal a game with Manu playing poorly, but they won’t be able to steal a series without Ginobli operating on all cylinders.

JB: There have been a few players that have struggled over the past two games, but I have to think that –shockingly – Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan have been the most disappointing.  Duncan has uncharacteristically disappeared when his team has needed him most, and Ginobli has been pretty much irrelevant since the Finals started.  I suppose an argument could be made for Chris Bosh, who made some poor shooting decisions throughout Game 1, but he definitely turned it around in Game 2.
 Are you surprised by the way this series has gone so far?

NW: I’m not surprised by the outcomes of the two games, I am
only surprised by how some specific players are playing. No star is blowing
anyone away. LeBron is under 20 pts both games. Duncan and Parker combined for
only 21 in game 2. Wade only had 10 in game 2. I’m going to be optimistic and
attribute it to great defense instead of poor offense though.

ES: Not too surprised. If you would have asked any objective NBA fan before the series started what the series would stand at after 2 games, I’m sure 1-1 would be a very common answer. What was most surprising was how San Antonio was able to win Game 1, only committing 4 turnovers and slowing down the Heat’s hyper efficient offense.

JB: Not really.  I expected the Heat to take the first two
games, but everyone expected this series to be close.  Like I said in some of my earlier posts: if
the Heat are going to beat the Spurs in any given game, they are going to have
to knock them out – which they did in Game 2.  When they let the Spurs hang around until the end like Game 1, Miami doesn’t seem to fly around as aggressively as they would if they had the lead. All in all, I’m not shocked by much so far in this series, outside of Tony Parker’s circus shot to close out Game 1.
What to expect as the series moves to San Antonio

NW: Just a close series. The Spurs have done a great job maintaining LeBron, something no team has been able to do this playoffs. Expect the Heat to try and get LeBron going a little earlier. I’m expecting the Heat to take two of three in San Antonio. Miami is hitting 3’s, which is going to spread the stifling Spurs defense if they keep it up, and that will allow James, Wade, and even Chalmers to get more close range shots.

ES: In Game 1, the Spurs were able to limit the Heat in the 4th quarter and win a low scoring game. In Game 2, the Heat’s defense took absolute control in the 2nd half, jumpstarting their offense into a scoring explosion that saw them score 33 points to the Spurs 5 during a 7 minute period. Expect Games 3-5 to be played closer to what we saw in Game 1. The Spurs aren’t as bad as they looked in Game 2, and they are due for a game when they hit their shots and bury the Heat in a barrage of 3s. But expect the Heat’s D to be the deciding factor in this series, and for the Heat to return from Texas with a 3-2 lead.

JB: I expect the law of averages to come into effect.  I don’t think Danny Green can maintain this level of success shooting the ball, just like I don’t think Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan will continue to struggle this bad.  Besides this, I think it will be a hell of a lot harder for LeBron and the Heat to control the momentum for as long as they did when they were on their home court.  This is going to be more of a grind for Miami, and smart money says that they won’t be able to go on a 33-5 run in San Antonio, which obviously benefits the Spurs.  I think that unless Wade or James play outside their skulls, the Spurs will take 2 out of the next 3.  The thing is, I do expect an all-time classic performance from one of those guys.  Heat steal 2 out of the next 3 in Texas.