Category Archives: Game Previews

Previews of Bulls games and other big matchups.

Keys to a Game 7 Victory

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It all comes down to Game 7. For those of us who have no allegiance to these teams, this is exactly what we wanted. Although it killed me inside to actually root for the Miami Heat in game 6, I really just didn’t want the season to be over. I wasn’t prepared to watch web gem after web gem on the Sportscenter Top 10. Yes, the catches are cool, but it gets so old!

So here are my keys to a Game 7 victory for both the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

Miami Heat

1) An Aggressive LeBron James

The one thing about LeBron James that pisses me off the most is that he doesn’t attack the rim nearly enough throughout the course of a game. I understand that he enjoys getting his teammates involved, but if you’re 6’8”/265 and the fastest person on the court, you need to use that to your advantage. Right from the start, I’d like to see LBJ hold down the turbo button and go straight to the basket. In the fourth quarter comeback of Game 6, this is something we saw a lot from James. And guess what? They came back and ended up winning the game! If LBJ attacks the entire game tonight like he did in the fourth quarter of Game 6, I find it hard to believe that the Heat will lose.

2) Spread the Floor with Shooters

The Miami Heat were able to come back from a double digit deficit heading into the fourth quarter in Game 6 by playing a lineup of James, Chalmers, Allen, Miller, and the BIRDMAN. LeBron was able to run the show, either driving to the rim or kicking it out to any of his three shooters. The reason why Miami was able to come back was because they had great spacing. With Wade on the floor, the Spurs were able to clog the paint and make it difficult for James to go to the basket. Now, I’m not saying Spoelstra should consider benching Wade, but he should definitely look into playing this lineup for long stretches in both halves. By doing this, Wade can get enough rest throughout the game and have a strong fourth quarter.

3) Wade/Bosh need to step up

Although many people think LeBron is capable of winning a game by himself, this is unlikely against a tough and experienced Spurs team. James came down to South Beach for one reason: so he would not have to carry the entire team on his back and do all the work. It is imperative that either Bosh and/or Wade perform in tonight’s Game 7. They don’t necessarily have to drop 30 points, but they cannot go out there and lay an egg. Assuming one of these “stars” is able to play like themselves tonight, I find it more likely for Miami to come away with a victory.

San Antonio Spurs

1) A superb performance from Neal or Green

Besides game 6, we have seen at least one of these players be able to perform at an extremely high level. Both did not give any sort of contribution at all in the Game 6 loss. Green has been more consistent throughout the series, but Neal is more than capable of dropping 20 points on any given night. One of these players needs to step up, especially if Manu decides not to show. If Neal/Green is able to give San Antonio a nice spark on offense, their chances of winning sky rocket.

2) Another Throwback Game from Timmy D

What Duncan did in the first half last game was actually incredible. He ended with 25 points, giving the Spurs a six point lead. Bosh and the Heat defense had no real answer for him. Unfortunately, Tim’s age may have played a factor as he did not do much at all in the second half. He still ended up having a great stat line, but the Spurs really could have used him down the stretch. Duncan needs to match his play from Game 6 in tonight’s game in order for the Spurs to have a chance. The Spurs have a great opportunity to win Game 7 if Duncan has another fantastic performance.

3) Manu: X-Factor

Like I’ve said before, Manu is the x-factor of this Spurs team. I know they have been able to win without much contribution from him, but if Manu is playing up to his potential, this team becomes deadly. By having Manu’s playmaking ability along with his high arcing three point shot, the Spurs offense is a beautiful thing to watch. Manu does not need to match his Game 5 performance, scoring 20+ points and 10+ dimes. He simply needs to help Parker control the flow of the game, play tough defense, and hit a few clutch threes. Hopefully, we will see vintage Manu tonight.

Prediction: Miami Heat

Heat 96, Spurs 88

GAAAAMMMEEEEE SEEEEEVVEEEEENNNN!!!!!!!

Zaza really says it all here. After what many are regarding as the best NBA finals game since some of the Bulls-Jazz showdowns in 1997 and 1998, I can’t wait for tonight’s sequel. I have been asked to write a brief prediction of what will happen in tonight’s game, but honestly I have not the slightest idea as to who is going to be crowned champions tonight.

So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m gonna take a huge cop-out and paint two different scenarios, one of which I’m fairly certain will happen.

Scenario 1: Total Evisceration

In the “Total Evisceration” scenario, LeBron has a first quarter that looks something like 14 points on 5-7 shooting, with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block on Parker that will make the FCC question whether or not basketball on television is suitable for children. The Heat will jump out to a big lead, rolling on the momentum left over from the crazy come from behind victory of Game 6, and will cause Mike Breen to mention the Spurs’ fatigue 47 times. The game will never be close. I will consume too much beer and yell about how much of a fucking choke job Game 6 was. LeBron will not play the last 4 minutes of the game, allowing him to do more of that stupid jump-dance shit that he did last June. I’m not gonna lie to you, my beautiful readers: I am openly rooting for this situation to not happen. And not just because I’d prefer a close game to a blowout, but because I vigorously co-sign this.

Likelihood of this happening? 55%

Scenario 2: Story for your Grandkids

In the “Story for your Grandkids” scenario, assuming humankind exists far enough into the future for you to have children, and then those children to have children, there is never more than a six point lead for either side the whole night. All the stars will play poorly, feeling the immense pressure of the moment. Danny Green and Mike Miller will have a stretch in the third quarter where they both hit back to back threes. LeBron will do that thing where he forgets how fat Boris Diaw is and will settle for weird mid-range jumpers. Wade and Ginobili will both look ready for retirement. But somehow, some way, the Spurs will pull it out. Kawhi Leonard will have seven tip-ins, Tiago Splitter won’t get blown by on every defensive possession, and Gary Neal will take a runner in the lane and you will scream “NO NO WHY ARE Y…OH WOW WHAT A SHOT!!!”

Likelihood of this happening? 45%

So there ya have it. It’s gonna be great.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Let the Birdman fly!
Let the Birdman fly!

Remember when the Heat went on a 27 game winning streak in the regular season? Now, it has come down to just two games which will decide whether this Miami Heat team is a dynasty or a failure. All the Heat must do is win two games in a row (much easier said than done) and they can crown themselves as repeat champions. If they end up losing to the Spurs, will Riley blow up the team, making this experiment a failure? Who knows. One thing I ask is why would Erik Spoelstra try and change the lineup in the Finals?!!! Everyone knows you don’t mess around with your team in the playoffs!
The Heat made a historical run during the regular season, firing on all cylinders. LeBron was doing crazy LeBron-esque things, all of the role players were contributing, and Juwan Howard set an NBA record for high fives given. Everything was going great. Now in the Finals, Spoelstra decides to stick a streaky Mike Miller in for Udonis Haslem, making the Heat mainly a small ball team. Miller only put up two shots in the last two games, scoring a total of ZERO POINTS. Spoelstra then benched the energetic BIRDMAN BIRDMAN for all of Games 3 and 4. Why is he straying away from something that got them to where they are today? I really have no idea.
Gregg Popovich knew his team was capable of staying with the small ball Heat and was not afraid to matchup with them. He simply slid Kawhi Leonard over to the 4 spot and inserted a struggling Manu into the starting lineup. Oddly enough, the Spurs are actually better than the Heat with this style. They surround Parker and Duncan with superb three points shooting (note from Jake: DANNY THREEZUS) and are able to push the ball in transition, while still defending at an elite level. This lineup change really blew up in the Heat’s face with Manu being more like his Manu self and all of the Spurs starters scoring in double digits.
Hopefully, Erik Spoelstra will go back to his own style for Games 6 and 7, which is what won the Heat 66 games in the regular season. He should want to keep Tiago Splitter on the floor as much as possible, something that will happen if he plays his bigs more. I am not saying he should abandon small ball, he just should not bench all of his bigs and depend on Bosh/James to consistently rebound and protect the rim at a high level. When the Heat go small, no Spurs players are afraid of attacking the rim. Why should they be?
Moral of the Story: Stick to what you know and don’t mess around in the Finals.

Killing the Narrative

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One thing that really bothers me about sports is “the narrative”. You’re familiar with it. Joe Flacco wasn’t an “elite QB” until he won the Super Bowl. LeBron James wasn’t “clutch” or a true “winner” until he defeated OKC in last year’s Finals.

While James seemingly vanquished this mostly baseless argument last summer (seriously, check out his career playoff averages, especially 2008-2009), we’re seeing a different version of it now that James may be defeated in his third of four career Finals. Now, especially in Chicago, we’re hearing all about how James can never be the greatest and “Michael never would have let this happen”. While these things might be true (I do have trouble with the “GOAT” losing three out of four finals), context is huge. Jordan failed, often at the hands of Detroit, year after year before his monstrous dominance. Magic Johnson lost FOUR Finals–but won five; he’s still widely considered to be one of the best to ever play. Even Larry Bird dropped a couple (it didn’t help that he and Magic had to play each other half the time).

Finally, making this argument based solely off this year’s Finals fails to respect the greatness James is up against. Timmy Duncan and Coach Pop are no slouches themselves–they’re only one win away from (likely) finishing 5-0 in their shared Finals career. So as Games 6 and 7 unfold, remember that “the narrative” only means as much as you say it does. Regardless of what happens this week, Tim Duncan and LeBron James will go down as two of perhaps the ten greatest to ever play the game. But LeBron would save himself a lot of trouble by unleashing two performances remniscient of last years’ Eastern Conference Finals.

Green On Fire

danny-green-three-point-record-nba-finals

I must admit than when I predicted that Danny Green would win MVP I was a bit facetious. Yes, it is undeniable that Green had been a key contributor through the first four games of the series, but I was kind of waiting for any of the traditional stars from either team to seize the opportunity to shine in these back and forward NBA Finals. But the regression to the mean that we all have been waiting for has not happened yet, as Green put on another incredible display of long distance shooting in Game 5, going 6-10 from three. The impressive performance somehow actually lowered Green’s 3P%. That is how ridiculously hot this guy has been so far. A 60% shooting night from three was perhaps his worst performance of the finals.

And Sunday night wasn’t just an impressive performance. It was also a record breaking one. Ray Allen had previously held the record for most treys in a single NBA finals, knocking down 22 in seven games in 2008. Green has shattered that mark, with 25 already through just five games! THE DUDE IS AVERAGING FIVE 3’S A GAME!! ON 68.5% SHOOTING!!!! FROM DEEP AS FUCK!!!!!!!

Looking ahead to Game 6, the Heat need to be asking themselves some tough questions: How can we get Lebron going early, how can we reintegrate the Birdman into the rotation, how can we get Mike Miller some more open looks. But the question that has kept Sad Erik Spoelstra up at night has got to be “HOLY FUCK CAN SOMEBODY GUARD THAT FUCKING D-LEAGUE PIECE OF SHIT?!?!?”