June 16, 2014

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 4-1 to win the NBA championship.: Amidst all the drama (and great basketball) in the early rounds of the playoffs we were left with a repeat of 2013, Spurs versus the Heat. However, this year the results were markedly different as the Spurs dominated the last 3 games of the series in an unquestionable way. Kawhi Leonard is my new hero; a young man whose father was murdered 6 years ago and on Father's Day carried his team to a championship and won the MVP award. Oh, and he doesn't really want to talk to the press.

posted by jeremias to basketball at 10:48 AM - 9 comments

I've heard the term "backpacking" used in sports to describe someone who carries his team.

LeBron was "backpacking" this entire series.

posted by grum@work at 12:06 PM on June 16, 2014

Yeah, not much more LeBron could have done. But the problem is, if all those guys elect to opt into their extensions (or not opt out of their contract, whatever applies), he is likely going to be stuck doing this again. Maybe they'll get lucky and there will be no juggernaut like the Spurs coming out of the West, but either way the Heat are a cautionary tale for teams that would try to structure things on a "stars and scrubs" approach (with multiple max contracts), although it worked for them the two years prior (they just had better/younger role players).

As an aside, nations represented by Spurs players (judging from the flags I saw on display during the trophy presentation -- Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Australia) are 3-1 in the World Cup thus far.

posted by holden at 12:23 PM on June 16, 2014

Not to mention France! Represented by Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.

posted by jeremias at 12:26 PM on June 16, 2014

The Heat employ the Phil Jackson offensive strategy: get the best players and the sole focus is to isolate them on their defenders. It's imperative your stars are more talented than than the opposition and they must perform at a high level. A very small percentage of your roster gets 80 plus percentage of the touches on offense.

LeBron is still the most talented player alive but Leonard was the better all around player this series. The Heat got nothing from anyone not named LeBron. Spurs held multiple double digit leads when their best players had off games including last night when Parker hadn't made a shot and had only 1 assist late into the 3rd quarter.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:31 PM on June 16, 2014

I know I'm going to be burned at the stake on the North Shore for saying this, but fear of flames has never seemed to be a deterrent in the past.

Channeling the bumper sticker that reads: "Please help me to be the person my dog thinks I am" ...

There are times when I think to myself: "Please help Belichick be the coach that my dog knows Gregg Popovich is".

posted by beaverboard at 12:38 PM on June 16, 2014

I meant to add France and make the point about all those teams being 4-1 and the Finals ending (not by coincidence? -- Sepp Blatter Illuminati-level stuff going on here) at 4-1 as well, but totally slipped my mind.

Poor Patty Mills and the other Australian guy. Being left out and bringing down the average. And poor Canadian guy, although hockey.

posted by holden at 12:50 PM on June 16, 2014

The Heat employ the Phil Jackson offensive strategy: get the best players and the sole focus is to isolate them on their defenders

I feel like the Jordan Bulls had a deeper team* than they get credit for because everyone remembers a bunch of tall white stiffs at center. Similarly, Kobe/ Shaq's Lakers had Big Shot Bob and a number of other (close to?) All Star-caliber players.

* Two teams really, the Ho Grant edition and then the Jordan-comeback kids.

posted by yerfatma at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2014

Agreed. Jordan had Grant, Kerr, Pippen, Rodman and others who had well defined roles at a different position than Jordan. All were considered amongst the top in the league at what they did, and all were complimentary players. Ditto the Kobe / Shaq Lakers with Horry, Fox, Fischer and others.

While the Wade / Bosh / LeBron combination is probably the most talented trio of all time, they all play a similar offensive game (outside the key with the ball facing the basket) and have limited supporting talent.

posted by cixelsyd at 01:52 PM on June 16, 2014

Greg Popovich has done a masterful job in creating the San Antonio Spurs. Defensively sound and offensively diverse and unselfish is the short answer for who they are. All this betrays my firm grasp of the obvious. The interesting thing is how Popovich came to this philosophy of building a basketball. Here the answer is that he took a long look at one very successful team of 60 years ago (Has it been that long? Crap I'm getting old.) and while he did not try to duplicate it, he used much of what the Boston Celtics of Red Auerbach's day did. Quite like this year's finals, the Celtics championship teams seldom had the best player on the floor. What they did was to make the "best player" work for his points and play some defense in order to wear him down. At the same time, great effort went into defending the other players to make sure none of them beat you while you were attending to stopping the star. The old Celtics offense featured the fast break, and when that was not available, used ball movement and the movement of players without the ball to gain easy shots. San Antonio is somewhat different, in that the 3-point shot is now a staple of NBA play, and the fast break is not run as often now, but the core of the offense is still motion, motion, and more motion.

posted by Howard_T at 12:00 AM on June 17, 2014

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