We Got 5 (+2) on It: Extra Special NBA Finals Edition — Rep Yo Set To Da Death

Regal Radio

This is it, everyone, the moment we’ve all waited for since October…the possible final games of Tracy McGrady’s career.
No, seriously, no one has waited for anything regarding McGrady in several years. It’s really time for the NBA Finals — the Heat and the Spurs, the team everyone wants to see in the Finals versus the team that traditionally has been ratings death for the League.
Not that we care about those things here at WARR, its quite easy to see that if you can’t find this year’s Finals match-up inherently compelling then you shouldn’t (and likely don’t want) basketball in June anyway. It ain’t for you.
Two men who love basketball in June — Rob Smith, sports editor of the Venice (Fla.) Gondolier Sun and a contributor to PageQSports.com. and Houston-based freelance journalist and proud San Antonio native Joe Ruiz, each back in the building after their previous contributions to our Rep Yo Set posts, facing off like LeBron and Kawhi. See what they think of that match and so much else to come at us starting in mere minutes.
1. Teams that swept their conference series match-ups are 4-2 in the Finals against teams that went to seven games. Will that be of any significance in this series? Do you like the position your team is in entering the series?
Smith: I don’t take anything of significance from that stat.
Ruiz: Not really. I’m not one for historical facts and figures when analyzing current day matchups. I’d much rather look at current year info, but even that’s shot to hell with the incomplete rosters on both sides during each team’s road game this season. (Pop sending Duncan, Manu, Parker and Green home before the game at Miami and Spoelstra holding LeBron and Wade out when they were in SA). I like that the Spurs had some rest and could have spent their time analyzing Miami and how the Pacers played them.
2.  LeBron says he’s 50 times better today than he was in the ’07 Finals? In what way do you think he’s most significantly better?
Smith: The biggest improvement in LeBron’s game has been the development of a jump shot that has rapidly become one of the best in the game. He shot 28 percent on threes during Cleveland’s 2006-07 run to the Finals, and is shooting 39 percent in this year’s playoffs. During his first season in Miami, LeBron shot 33 percent from beyond the arc. This year that number rose to 40.6 percent. Luring James into shooting from the outside is still the best way to defend him, but it’s not a particularly effective strategy anymore.
Ruiz: This would probably be easier to answer  if you asked ways in which he isn’t better. LeBron’s jumper has improved so much since 2007. In the 2007 Finals, the Spurs could sag off LeBron and let him fire away without worrying as much. If they do that this series (and they won’t), they’d lose rather handily.
3. Tony Parker used the ’07 series to establish himself as the guy for SA going forward. What Spurs player could the league be looking at differently after this series?
Smith: Kawhi Leonard has a chance to become a household name in this series. Defensively, he’s the only Spur with the physical ability to competently defend LeBron. If he falters in that role, there isn’t a backup stopper who can pick up the slack. Should he succeed, the lion’s share of the praise will (deservedly) be heaped on Leonard.
On the offensive end, Miami will be focused on Tony Parker and Tim Duncan (and, to a lesser degree, Manu Ginobili). Leonard has been a model of offensive efficiency during the playoffs, but the Heat will dare him to prove it isn’t a fluke.
Ruiz: I’d like to say Kawhi Leonard, but I think people have a pretty good opinion of him so far. I expect his defense to get noticed this series going up against LeBron and Wade. I’m going to give this answer to Danny Green. While many people point to how he’s flourished now that he’s in a system like San Antonio’s, he left a bad taste in the mouths of many (mainly Spurs fans) with last season’s collapse against Oklahoma City. I think he hits his shots more consistently this series and serves as the star of at least one game.
4. What are you loving about your team entering this series and what from the other side has you scared as hell?
Smith: The matchups for Miami are much more favorable in this series than they were against Indiana. Roy Hibbert’s presence in the paint deterred the Heat from attacking the rim, and the Pacers also took away the corner threes that have been a staple of Miami’s attack all year.
Mario Chalmers’ inability to keep Tony Parker out of the paint occasionally leaves me in need of new drawers. If Parker is getting into the lane, the Heat will be forced to collapse on him and leave San Antonio’s shooters unguarded. I wouldn’t be surprised if Norris Cole, who is Miami’s best on-ball defender not named LeBron, gets more minutes solely to keep Parker at bay, or at least limit the damage inflicted.
Ruiz: The way the Spurs manhandled the Grizzlies (remember, I was locked into a Game 7 decision) surprised almost everybody. I expect the Spurs to address the Heat’s match-up problems and really have to leave it to Pop and the coaching staff making the adjustments necessary. How many times have they been wrong? As Spurs fans note, “In Pop We Trust.” When you have the best player in a generation, you’re spooked. LeBron has more help this time around and I expect him to take advantage of it.
5. What on-court matchup do you think will define this series?
Smith: The most fascinating matchups in Heat series aren’t the ones you see at the beginning of the games, but rather at the end. In James, Miami has a player it can put on a point guard or center and be reasonably sure that player’s contributions will be almost entirely nullified. There’s a good chance LeBron will wind up guarding either Parker or Tim Duncan at important junctures during this series, depending on which of the duo Miami is struggling with more. Either of those matchups will be wildly entertaining.
Ruiz: LeBron versus the Spurs defenders. Some are looking forward to Tony Parker vs. Mario Chalmers, and I think the only reason to look at that is to see Chalmers end up on Parker’s next YouTube highlight video. You have the best player in the game and nobody can defend him consistently. If you’re not taking the chance to watch LeBron work — and see if he can indeed carry the Heat — you shouldn’t be watching the game. A second matchup would be the bigs, but even I’m not too excited about Splitter/Bonner vs. Bosh.
6. Will this be the last time we see the Duncan-era Spurs in the Finals? Will this be the last time we see the Big 3 Heat in the Finals?
Smith: The Spurs aren’t getting any younger, and it’s fair to wonder whether we’d be seeing a Thunder-Heat rematch if Lee Harvey Beverley (ed. note – Ha!) hadn’t assassinated Oklahoma City’s playoff hopes when he darted in front of Russell Westbrook. I’d be surprised if San Antonio’s current core was back in the Finals next year or any year after, considering the age and health concerns of Duncan, Ginobili and — to a lesser extent — Parker.
Miami should still be the favorite to emerge from the Eastern Conference next year. The Pacers are a worthy foe and the Chicago Bulls will have Derrick Rose back, but neither of those teams should be expected to knock out a team that could be the back-to-back defending champions. However, Miami’s trio of James-Wade-Bosh can opt out of their contracts after the 2014 season, which could add pressure and distractions to a team that already deals with its fair share of both.
Ruiz: I can’t count on one hand the amount of times I thought Spurs fans were at the end of the line with watching Tim and our Big Three, so I can’t very well do that here. I think Tim continues to play regardless of the outcome, though, so it’s not definitely over. I’m not sure we can count out the Heat, either. Maybe Wade or Bosh get traded (should be Wade), but if they’re together next year, they’re contenders.
7. Finally, the prediction…who will win this series and one (legit, non-homerish) reason why? 
Smith: If Bosh and Wade play the way they did in the Pacers series, the Spurs are going to win the title in five games. If Bosh and Wade play like they did in Game 7, Miami is going to win its third championship in six games, tops. I lean toward the latter being the case, since Bosh no longer has to deal with Hibbert and Wade has modern medicine assisting him in numbing whatever is going on inside his balky knees.
I tend to go with the team that has the better player, and in this series, that favor lies with the Heat. So I will say the Heat close the series out on their home floor in six games.
Ruiz: Spurs in six. I think the Spurs had enough time to see how Indiana played the Heat as well as they did and will adjust accordingly. The Heat can also be beat at home — yes, the Spurs can be beat at home, too — but Wade and Bosh’s quiet nights are coming a bit more frequently, and I think that hurts LeBron in the long run by trying to carry this Heat team once more.
Follow Rob on Twitter @Smithers_Rob,  Joe @joeruiz and Regal Radio @regalradio1 

One response to “We Got 5 (+2) on It: Extra Special NBA Finals Edition — Rep Yo Set To Da Death

  1. Pingback: Chris Bosh to Heat fans who left early: ‘Don’t come to Game 7′ | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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