1) LeBron or Tim Duncan should’ve been Finals MVP.
Duncan’s defense at the rim was more key than Kawhi Leonard’s play.
Unfortunately there aren’t stats for things like altered shots, or a stat that shows how many times Duncan forces a player like Wade to reconsider driving and instead pull up for a jumper. We do see very clearly how Duncan forces Wade or James to opt for a floater, but for some reason the importance of this quickly gets lost on people. So viewers, even experienced ones, sometimes have a hard time appreciating what makes Duncan so essential. Instead, they remember the more flashy plays from Leonard – the put back jam, the alley oop, etc. It was almost as if Leonard won MVP just for being the most athletic Spur; the public rewarding the one Spur who dunked emphatically more than once.
But we should not overlook what Pop decided to do in Game 5 after Miami ran out to a lead and held it deep into the 2nd quarter. The way his vaunted offense was performing was making him nervous. It does very well with a lead or momentum, but not so much without it. So at one point Pop decided to dump the constant motion and ball movement and instead go down low to the tried-and-true Duncan for about 4 straight possessions – and good old Timmy D. delivered. The Spurs soon regained the lead before halftime. Duncan was San Antonio’s safety net on offense and defense in the Finals just like he always is.
And LeBron – he was simply the best player in the series by a wide enough margin where I would consider giving him the MVP just for being so superb while getting little support.
But there is an understandable hesitance to give the MVP to a player on the losing team, as Bill Simmons summed up yesterday on Grantland:
“When I was an unborn fetus during the 1969 Finals, I probably kicked my mom in the stomach when Jerry West won the Finals MVP. How valuable could you have been if your team lost? Absurd.”
Okay, well think about it like this… you can’t give a system an MVP and you can’t give the coach an MVP, so if a system beats the singular efforts of one player, and if you’re unwilling to give the MVP to this superior individual opponent who was essentially ganged-up on, then who are you going to give it to in the system? The one guy that seemed to do a little bit more than his teammates? That guy was more valuable to his team than James was to his?
It seems that people have already forgotten that Miami won Game 2. The way we’ve been talking about this series you’d think it was a sweep. It was that lopsided.
Yes, analysts are saying this is the most one-sided and dominant Finals performance from a team in NBA history. And yet, Miami won a game in San Antonio.
So maybe we should think about this series and wonder, “how in the world did Miami win Game 2?”
Oh yeah, that’s right, they have LeBron James, the best player in the world, the best player in the series, and he actually played 1 on 5 and beat the infallible Spurs in their own house.
That’s MVP stuff to me.
And besides, LeBron completely smoked the guy they gave the MVP to – the guy whose primary responsibility was to slow James down. LeBron shot 57% while being defended by Leonard, and he ended up with a 32.24 PER in the Finals, a production level that Michael Jordan has only reached once (32.88) in six tries.
In fact, not only did LeBron put up the 5th highest Finals PER since 1986 (behind the top efforts of Shaq, Magic and MJ), but he also put up the highest PER of any player who has lost in the NBA Finals.
Top Six Finals PERs Since 1986
|36.08||Shaquille O’Neal||2001 – 02|
|34.95||Shaquille O’Neal||2000 – 01|
|32.92||Magic Johnson||1986 – 87|
|32.88||Michael Jordan||1990 – 91|
|32.24||LeBron James||2013 – 14|
|32.05||Shaquille O’Neal||1999 – 00|
2) There is this idea out there that the Heat got smashed because the East is inordinately weak and the West is so much stronger – that the weakness of the East shrouded the truth about the Heat.
Sure, the West has more good teams, but I’m not buying the degree of this at all. It is not that extreme. For one thing, the same thing was said last year before Miami won.
Secondly, in the first two games the Spurs were the Spurs – the same team from the first three rounds – and seemingly the same team from the 2013 Finals. And they left San Antonio 1-1. If it wasn’t for AC shenanigans they may have left San Antonio down 0-2.
But something happened in Game 3 and it had to do with Boris Diaw. But nobody really knew exactly what that lineup was going to do beforehand. Diaw didn’t start any game in the playoffs until Game 3 of the Finals, so it’s not like San Antonio knew what they were sitting on either. Nobody did.
So yes, the Heat got spanked. No, I don’t think it’s because the West is that much better.
And an idea that I know people aren’t going to accept is this:
If the Spurs didn’t change their starting lineup they may not have won the series – more games would’ve looked just like Game 2.
Yes, yes, I know. Boo! Hiss! Deal with it.
So I think the Spurs won mostly because of a specific, previously unknown, exploitation that the Spurs uncovered because of Boris Diaw’s +/- from Game 1 (+30) – and also because the Spurs were supremely motivated by 2013, and compounding that problem was the *EBL Heat’s lack of similar motivation due to the drain of 4 straight finals runs (their Big 3 having played over 10,000 more minutes than San Antonio’s since 2011) and drive reduction from back-to-back rings.
*Everybody But LeBron