For the diehard basketball junkie, sometimes there’s nothing you can do after a game but shake your head and text your friends. Last night, Jake and Geo found themselves in this position, and decided to trade some emails this morning to talk about last night’s instant classic.
Jake Weiner: I don’t even know what to say about last night. After a fantastic first 3 and a half quarters that no one besides Tim Duncan’s mom will remember, the Heat and Spurs were basically locked in a tie game. Tony Parker hit some insane shots and the stage was set for LeBron. But he turned it over on three straight possessions in the 4th quarter, seemingly ending Miami’s season. As all of this was unfolding, most of my buddies had looks of pure bliss on their faces–the arrogant, cocky, entitled LeBron was self-destructing in the biggest moments once again. Yet for some reason, I found myself feeling bad for him. We know he’s the best player in the league after all, and the last two seasons have proven that James can close out games with the best of them. Watching those turnovers, and then missed 3s, I couldn’t help but ignore the choker narrative that was already being written. It honestly seemed like everything just went wrong for James all at once–a perfect storm. It’s funny how having a HOF like Jesus Shuttlesworth in your back pocket can erase all those memories.
Tyler “Geo” Geocaris: I too felt bad for the King. Although part of me despises him because I’m such a die hard Bulls fan, the NBA junkie in me did not want to see this year’s Finals end like this with all the blame on James. LeBron had an incredible fourth quarter, bringing a flat Heat team back into the game by being involved in just about every scoring play. After having a phenomenal statistical year, it didn’t seem right for James to end the season with a few poor turnovers resulting in losing yet another championship. I wasn’t prepared to see all of social media blowing up on James and bashing him for his performance. He had a triple double, which amazes me because he clearly didn’t even play that well of a game. That shows how special of a player he actually is and it seems like we tend to forget that. He is no Michael Jordan (no one is or will be) and it’s not fair to be compared to the GOAT on a regular basis. I know thats how the media is nowadays, but come on. They both have different styles of play and very different skill sets. If anything, compare him to Magic.
JW: I agree, LeBron’s always been more of a Magic to me in a lot of ways. I think people our age tend to forget/not know that Magic was basically the original multi-positional weapon. He’s considered the greatest point guard ever, but as a rookie he stepped in for an injured Kareem and started at center in GAME 6 OF THE FINALS!!!! He slapped up a RIDICULOUS 42-15-7 and won Finals MVP as a rookie, the year after he won the NCAA title. That was a bit of a digression, but that’s probably the single greatest performance in NBA history to me. Anyway, LeBron reminds me of Magic because in reality, he’s a 6’9″ point guard that excels at playing forward and occasionally center. LeBron’s passing ability is like nothing I’d ever seen–until I watched some Magic highlights. What clinches the comparison for me, though, is Magic’s 5-4 career record in the Finals. Magic is a thought of as an all-time great, a five time champion! But he lost almost as many as he won. Ultimately, we’ll look back on James as a legend, but ain’t nobody callin’ Magic Johnson the GOAT.
TG: I don’t think anyone realizes that Johnson lost that many Finals during his HOF career; I know I didn’t until your most recent post. Basketball is obviously a team sport, and with how talented the NBA has gotten from top to bottom as of late, having that supporting cast is a necessity (ex: LeBron in Cleveland). Obviously we could talk about LBJ’s offensive skill set all day, but what impresses me the most is what he can do on defense. I don’t know if we have seen a player EVER that guarded a brute power forward (David West) then went on to guard a speedy point guard (Tony Parker) the following series. To exert that much energy on defense and still be able to dominate on the offensive end is out of control. He is expected to shut down the opposing teams best player on a nightly basis along with getting a triple double on offense. This is why LeBron is not a human being but a machine.
JW: One of my favorite/least favorite things (depending on my mood) of LeBron Machine 2013 is those laser-like passes he makes that always seem to find Ray Allen in a perfect shooting position. Whether it’s a full court hail mary that lands right in Allen’s baby soft hands or a bullet in the half court, I’m always dumbfounded by LeBron being able to 1) find the angle while being defended vigorously and 2) place the ball perfectly where Ray needs it to rise up for three. Ray Allen is basically the key to Miami’s offense now, which makes his heroics even crazier when you consider how quiet he’d been until Game 5–including being shut down by both Chicago and Indiana. After everything that possibly could go wrong went wrong last night, the basketball gods rewarded Chris Bosh and the Heat with a huge offensive rebound. Probably the only person who didn’t know that pass was going to Ray in the corner was Mario Chalmers, who was too confused trying to figure out why he was on the bench. All you need to know about Ray Allen’s career is that he had two points with six seconds left in a Finals elimination game and every single person in America knew that point total was about to change to five. BANG. Overtime. Game 7.
TG: There’s really nothing better then a high quality dime and James is normally the one dishing them out on a regular basis. When LeBron is surrounded by superb shooters (Miller, Chalmers, Allen), he’s almost unstoppable if his guys are hitting their shots. This is something we saw in the Heat’s big run last night to open the third quarter. James was in full attack mode, going hard to the rim and either finishing with a layup or kicking it out to an open shooter. Like you said, LBJ is able to perfectly place the ball right into the shooting pocket of his teammates. It really is incredible to watch. During this entire run, the banged up Dwyane Wade was watching court side. One would think if both James and Wade were on the court together, they would be able to co-exist and produce. This has not been the case. James has been a lot more efficient with Wade off the court. This is mainly because who ever defends Wade is able to sag off on him, daring him to shoot while clogging the paint. By having Wade on the court, James has one less shooter to pass to and one more defender to deal with. Does Spolstra bench Wade during crunch time? No way. But he should definitely consider this lineup of shooters+LBJ for stretches throughout the game.
I woulda kept all my snipers in the game if I’m spolestra but hey who am I? I never won a championship…move em
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 19, 2013
JW: Totally agree. In fact, so does Kevin Durant! James and Wade have both been significantly better with the other on the bench for the exact reason you highlighted. Having more shooters on the floor forces the Spurs to spread out on defense, opening the paint for Miami’s lethal attack. While a Wade and no LeBron lineup probably wouldn’t go so well in a bigger sample size, the Heat are a potent weapon when LeBron has space to operate. It’s not just a coincidence that Miami’s insane run ended when Wade came back in–only some heroics saved them from their second Finals defeat in three seasons together. Game 7s are often underwhelming, but this series has been anything but conventional. I cannot wait to see how it unfolds, especially the ongoing chess match between Spoelstra and Popovich (more on Pop’s questionable decisions coming up later today).