So this probably is the way it ought to be. For the as-yet hypothetical purposes of this column, I am advancing the Miami Heat into the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, who completed a sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday in Memphis, and looked like the full manifestation of themselves while doing it.
The Miami Heat have a physical advantage over San Antonio, but that’s because Miami has a LeBron James, which is one more LeBron James than San Antonio has. This is problematic for the Spurs.
But this is the way it ought to be because the Heat were going to have a physical advantage over whoever they played in the Finals, and the Spurs are the NBA team least likely to be bothered by that. You don’t have to stop James to beat the Heat, you just have to turn him into Cleveland LeBron, a guy who can’t trust his teammates.
This will not be easy because, as you may have noticed, Dwyane Wade is a little better than Mo Williams and Chris Bosh is not Anderson Varajao. This is not a prediction of success for San Antonio. It is not an argument that the Spurs will beat Miami. It’s just a suggestion they can, and they won’t need a miracle to do it.
San Antonio’s last eight playoff games have been cold-blooded. Because of the way the Spurs make things look, it is tempting to use words like “surgical,” “clinical” or “boring.” Monday’s game was a little different than that. Monday, Manu Ginobili threw a bounce pass between a defender’s legs. Monday, Tony Parker took a shot in the eye – a bit of a sore spot for him – writhed around, got mad, and then stuck the burning ember right back in Memphis’ eye.
At halftime, Parker said the Spurs needed to “give them no hope.” That’s dark, man. That’s cold.
Then he scored 37 points.
It was a little reminder that when you’re dealing with the Spurs, you’re dealing with possibly the best point guard of his generation playing with possibly the best power forward of all time and probably the best coach in the NBA. And those three guys have won three NBA championships together. And those three guys are all hot right now.
Parker you know about. Popovich went straight from wadding up and tossing out the Golden State Warriors’ perimeter-oriented offense like a gas-station receipt to squashing Memphis big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol like a couple of grapes. Duncan is averaging 19 points, nine rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game over his last 10 games. You can say the Spurs are old, and you can say the Spurs are boring and you would be more than a little bit right on both counts, but if you’re rummaging around for an actual basketball weakness, you might be looking for a while.
This is a team that nearly won 60 regular-season games without even really trying. San Antonio’s older, better players would take quarters off here and there, a night off from time to time.
And for that reason we haven’t even seen San Antonio play Miami yet this season. Not really. The Spurs sat their best guys for the first matchup and Miami did the same thing on the return game. It was more than a little controversial – the NBA fined the Spurs for that – and it carried the strong funk of gamesmanship. It was “show me yours, I’ll show you mine” and instead everybody just smiled and winked and didn’t show anything. You get the feeling they expected to be seeing each other again, and didn’t want to release any of the tension.
I expect that will be the case, and with all apologies to America’s favorite superstar Kevin Durant, this is the way it ought to be.