MIAMI — Covering my 25th NBA Finals and the very last for legendary Commissioner David Stern, I have to be prepared for the unexpected, like being in the middle of tropical storm Andrea, which caused flooding in many areas of south Florida. Stern, after 30 years on the job, suggested at his final news conference that the Miami vs. San Antonio match-up is the most anticipated NBA Finals in 30 years.
He does know his basketball, and he has done a remarkable job of improving the product and the global demand of the NBA. When you consider that 215 countries are enjoying the Finals in 47 languages, Stern might be right.
One team, San Antonio, features Tim Duncan, the 16-year four-time NBA champion and two-time MVP, versus Miami, the defending champions, with four-time MVP LeBron James. This is the third-straight year the Heat have reached the Finals.
Not since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls has a team from the Eastern Conference made three straight trips to the Finals. Game one the Spurs won 92-88 thanks to Tony Parker and Tim Duncan combining for 41 points. Not even a triple double by James could prevent the Spurs from snatching away the prized home-court advantage the Heat worked all year to preserve.
Parker, the MVP of the 2007 NBA Finals, scored a huge basket after falling to floor with the shot clock going down, faked James in the air, and hit the circus shot. The Spurs had just four turnovers in the win.
Game two, the Heat had to win with the next three games in San Antonio. The Heat busted open a tight game with three minutes left in the third and went on a 30-5 run to even the Finals with a 103-84 win.
Game two featured another highlight moment, this one again involving James, who soared and blocked a dunk attempt by Tiago Splitter at the rim that was spectacular and ignited the Heat to victory. It was also the first win by James in the NBA Finals vs. San Antonio after five straight losses. History says the winner of game one has won 47 of 66 NBA Finals.
The Finals have just begun, and a major trend has developed. The Spurs won game one with just four turnovers, and the Heat won game two with just six turnovers. The Heat have led both games at halftime 52-49 and 50-45.
Both teams feature their big three stars: Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili for the Spurs, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for Miami. After the first two games, the team whose big three played best has won each game.
Parker, Duncan and Ginobili combined to score 54 points in game one to 48 for James-Wade-Bosh. Game two, James-Wade-Bosh combined out-scored 39 to 27 Parker-Duncan-Ginobili. Four-time NBA Championship Coach Gregg Popovich said, on defending James, “Nobody is going to stop LeBron James for all the reasons that we all know, but to try to make him work and maybe deny a catch here and there is important. Kawhi Leonard did the best job he could.”
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.