Five questions about the NBA Finals

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 6, 2013 - 12:04 PM

Miami and San Antonio meet in the NBA Finals for the first time starting Thursday, but Heat superstar LeBron James has been here before, six years ago when his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept in four games by the Spurs.

Miami and San Antonio meet in the NBA Finals for the first time starting Thursday, but Heat superstar LeBron James has been here before, six years ago when his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept in four games by a Spurs team that won its fourth NBA title anchored by star center Tim Duncan.

Here are five questions about a Heat team looking to repeat in its third consecutive trip to the Finals and a Spurs team looking to get Duncan one more ring for his thumb:

Q Will the Spurs be rusty, or ready?

AThey haven’t played in 10 days since sweeping Memphis in the Western Conference finals. The Heat beat Indiana in the East final’s Game 7 on Monday.

That’s three days, sports and mathematics fans.

“I’m ready to play now,” James told reporters Wednesday. “I would rather have the two days.”

While the Pacers and Heat slugged it out, the Spurs sat home, rested their old creaky bodies and observed.

“We learned a lot watching those games,” San Antonio guard Tony Parker said. “I can’t tell you what we got from that, but we learned a lot. Hopefully, it will help us.”

Q Did the Pacers provide the blueprint for beating the Heat?

AYes and no.

Big Roy Hibbert demonstrated during the Eastern Conference finals what most everybody suspected all along: If you’re going to challenge Miami, you’ll do it with height, length and muscle.

Hibbert, and frontcourt mate David West, provided some of all three.

The Spurs have size, but neither Tim Duncan nor Tiago Splitter is Hibbert, a 7-2 shot-blocker whose presence tested the Heat.

The Spurs, like the Heat, will spread the floor more, with Parker’s ball handling creating space for three-point shooters Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal and Matt Bonner.

“It’s going to be a little different,” said Heat center Chris Bosh, who struggled to find his way against the Pacers. “It’s kind of like our practices playing each other.”

 

Q Has it really been six years?

AYes, it has.

James was just 22 then when his Cavaliers met the Spurs in the 2007 Finals.

That was then, this is…

“That was like ancient history,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was basically a neophyte at the time, wondering how all this stuff worked and how it’s put together. We were very fortunate at that time to get him so early. At this point, he has grown. He doesn’t care what y’all say. He knows basketball better than everybody put together in this room. He goes and plays the game and does what’s necessary.

“So he’ll be a lot more of a problem than he was in ’07. That’s for sure.”

James now has one title ring and is working on collecting that handful he playfully promised when he and his talents left Cleveland for South Beach in 2010.

“A lot smarter, more experienced, older,” James said. “I think that’s the most important thing, I’ve matured as a basketball player.”

Q Will James defend Parker?

  

A You bet.

But who knows, he might defend Duncan some, too.

That’s why teammates call James “1 through 5,” a guy who felt snubbed when he didn’t win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year but still can — and will — guard everybody from point guard to center.

“We’ll see it how it plays out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s our Super Glue. Wherever we need to put him, he’ll make it work.”

Many other teams have put taller, bigger players on Parker, usually in futile attempts to counter his pick-and-roll precision and slow his attacks to the basket. But no other team has a defender as versatile as James.

“We’ll see if they are going to do that,” Parker said, “but I’m kind of used to it.”

 

 

Q So why does network TV still bother with those Popovich sideline interviews?

AMaybe making TNT, ESPN or ABC sideline reporters anxious and uncomfortable is just sport to him, but it’s obvious the Spurs coach doesn’t think he — or his brethren — should be asked to do television interviews during games and everything about his body language and terse answers say so.

So why continue with something so predictably painfully and uninformative?

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who might next season again be answering those sideline questions in Brooklyn or Los Angeles, suggests it might be more productive to interview the head referee or some common fan.

“I think it would just as interesting interviewing a random fan because they [the coaches] are just not into it,” Van Gundy said. “It’s almost become funny how short Gregg is. … They’re trying to get to their timeout huddle to do what their job is.”

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Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 49 3rd Qtr
Boston 65
Philadelphia 40 2nd Qtr 2:41
Indiana 56
Portland 64 2nd Qtr 0:02
Sacramento 49
Charlotte 43 3rd Qtr
Orlando 42
Oklahoma City 28 2nd Qtr
LA Lakers 19
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 1 3rd Prd 13:14
Florida 4
Columbus 1 3rd Prd 17:50
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 28 1st Half 1:50
Wake Forest 32
Oregon 4 1st Half 15:46
Stanford 5
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
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Loyola-Chicago 70
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(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
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Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
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Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 49 2nd Half 4:00
(13) Kentucky 59
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60
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