Boston vs. Miami
Like every other league, there's a multitude of things wrong with the NBA -- Michael Jordan owns a franchise when he hasn't shown the ability to own a hot dog cart, the officiating is wildly erratic, David Stern hasn't been euthanized after the lockout or the Chris Paul screw up -- but the single biggest problem is this: more people are going to watch this hairpull of a series than the immensely better Western Conference match up.
You see, these players are Personalities, dammit, and Personalities Matter. Will LeBron James lend himself to more psychoanalysis? Will Rajon Rondo have postpartum depression after the Game Seven delivery against the Sixers? I have 2 or 3 more of these jokes lined up, but it's all too depressing, and ESPN has already started a 14-part series on how body language and 1980s movie references will decide this, and how slow game pace and hard fouls is the basketball fan equivalent of red meat and beer.
It is, of course, all bullsquat, all a media experience of peeing down your back and telling you it's raining. But that doesn't really answer the question of which team will win, why, and in how long, which is the point of the post, after all.
Miami, because they are much better, in five.
Oh, you wanted more?
The Heat are younger and more rested. James and Dwayne Wade will keep Rajon Rondo from controlling the game, and when he doesn't, the Celtics do not win. Boston's bench is as bad as we've ever seen for a Final Four team. The Celtics do not have home court, which they have needed in their first two series. Miami could get back Chris Bosh in this series, and Bosh has played well in the series last year. Boston does not rebound, or take care of the basketball, well enough go keep the Heat out of those deadly Globetrotter-esque runs that have been their hallmark in the James-Wade Era.
I could, of course, be very wrong about this: Miami gagged two games against the Pacers a week ago and looked like they might be spiraling down. If they do that here, the correction won't come as easily, and all of the crazed doubts and silliness will begin again.
But as likely as that seems to happen, this is still a lopsided matchup on athleticism, youth, rest, health and home court. It shouldn't be close. And the sooner it ends, the better for our eyes and sanity.
Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio
First things first: this isn't a toss-up series, no matter how much people want to say it is. One of these teams has many players with multiple rings, crazy depth and home court, along with a few more days of rest. The other is younger, more athletic, with bigger stars and, possibly, a better closing five. That isn't really a toss up, because in the NBA, the old guys win toss ups.
San Antonio should win this series, because they've been playing much better ball, and have rarely even been tested. And while OKC has played better opponents, the Lakers aren't that much better than the Clippers, and the past their prime Mavs were as willing to leave the tournament as the Jazz.
To pick the Thunder, you need to believe that Russell Westbrook will own Tony Parker and Danny Green, one week after both men turned Chris Paul into something ordinary. You need to think that Kevin Durant will get past Gregg Popovich's defensive schemes and waves of quality defenders, that Serge Ibaka will be relevant when Boris Diaw takes him away from the paint, that Kendrick Perkins will stay on the floor long enough to disrupt Tim Duncan, that James Harden, at 22, is smart and cagey enough to overcome Manu Ginobili.
All of that isn't, well, a toss up. It's a half dozen small advantages and incremental edges that should prevent the matchup that everyone wants t0 see -- James vs. Durant in the battle to see who's the best in the world, while Westbrook and Wade actually decide things. Instead, we'll see Duncan and the Spurs end James in the Finals for the second time, and for San Antonio to be a popular team for the first time, well, ever.
But all of that is, well, getting ahead of ourselves, and the hopefully long series that will actually decide the NBA crown, and whether or not OKC can set themselves up as the next empire, or if the Spurs will add one more jewel to Duncan's crown as, perhaps, the best big man of his era, and maybe even forever. And the fact this assessment may come as some kind of surprise to anyone...
Just tells you, really, how invested we are in personalities, rather than wins. Me, I'm going to watch the games.
Spurs in seven.
Year to date: 10-2
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Boston vs. Miami