NBA Finals: LeBreakdownJune 9th, 2011
Your favorite stuffed animal is on the guillotine. Babar doesn't have long to live. The executioner (David Stern) winks at you through the slits in his black hood and you realize you have one chance to save the king of your heart and the elephant kingdom.
Your objective: accurately pick the winner of this year's NBA Finals. Whether or not you originally predicted that the Big Three would outnumber Dirk, or that Dirk would unleash his inner David Hasselhoff (the inspiration for his free throws), you get a clean slate.
As a result of two (and almost three) miracle fourth quarter comebacks by the Mavericks, the series is tied 2-2. Everything comes down to a best of 3 series, the first game in Dallas, the final two in Miami.
Each team was won one home game and one away game. History tells us that the team that wins game 5 goes on to win 73% of the time. Game 5 will be played in Dallas where the Mavs are 1.5 point favorites.
On the other hand, the team that wins game 3 (the Heat) has gone on to win the championship 11 times out of 11.
I might trust 100% more than 73% if not for the fact that Miami's best(?) player has gone M.I.A.
At the end of game 3, LeBron passed the ball away on a crucial possession which resulted in a turnover. D-Wade chewed him out and all expected him to take the series by the horns in game 4, a chance for the Heat to essentially clinch a championship.
LeBron's reaction? 8 points, 4 turnovers. He took 11 total shots and made it to the free throw line twice. Wade and Bosh each had 20 shots and 10 free throw attempts. Not the aggression of a champion.
LeBron's passivity is one reason the Heat have let the Mavs back into three straight contests. Keyword: LET. As amazing as Dirk has been, there is an expectation that great teams knock teams down and keep them down.
Here are LeBron's keys to doing the opposite (ghostwritten by me):
Game 4: Mavs go on 21-9 run with 10 minutes left. Dirk scores 10 of his 21 points after fighting the flu for first 3 quarters, including an acrobatic game clinching layup with 14.4 seconds to go. (Mavs win 86-83)
Game 3: The Heat blew a 14 point lead, recovered it, and then let Dirk score 12 points in a row to tie it at 86. Bosh hit a jumper with 40 seconds left to go ahead by 2 and barely escaped a Dirk buzzer-beater. (Heat win 88-86)
Game 2: Dirk orchestrates 15 point comeback, including game-winning layup with 3 seconds left. (Mavs win 95-93)
Game 1: Heat win handily. Even LeBron gets lucky sometimes. (Heat win 92-84)
That was too harsh. I'm just shocked that the Heat are still 69% favorites to win the series, despite lacking any resemblance to a team that deserves it. If you read my last column, you know that Charles Barkley, Bill Simmons, and I all agree that LeBron is great. How great? We will find out.
Bill Simmon's LeBron breakdown:
a. I think LeBron's one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. I will never forget watching him in person with a full head of steam, blowing through opponents like a Pop Warner running back who's 30 pounds heavier and three seconds faster than everyone else. I am glad he passed through my life. I will tell my grandkids that I saw him play.
b. From game to game, I think the ceiling for his performance surpasses any other basketball player ever except for Wilt and Jordan.
c. As a basketball junkie, I will never totally forgive him for spending his first eight years in the NBA without ever learning a single post-up move. That weapon would make him immortal. He doesn't care. It's maddening.
d. In pressure moments, he comes and goes...and when it goes, it's gone. He starts throwing hot-potato passes, stops driving to the basket, shies away from open 3s, stands in the corner, hides as much as someone that gifted can hide on a basketball court. It started happening in Game 3, then fully manifested itself in Game 4's stunning collapse, when he wouldn't even consider beating DeShawn Stevenson off the dribble. Afterward, one of my closest basketball friends - someone who has been defending LeBron's ceiling for years - finally threw up his hands and gave up. "It's over," he said. "Jordan never would have done THAT."
By: Wiley Birkhofer