Unflappable: In Finals Opener, Spurs Refuse To Turn It Over and Turn Off the Heat


What a finish to the best overall game of the NBA season, which also happened to be Game 1 of the NBA Finals.  How satisfying, that the biggest stage actually delivered an incredibly crisp and highly-executed game?  Total number of turnovers: 12 (Each team had four going into the 4th quarter, but Miami turned it over four more times in the final frame. Total number of fouls (both teams): 24 (compare that with the 50 total fouls called in Game 7 of the East Finals).

I’ve been following the NBA with a different (and much more microscopic) lens this year, so it’s especially rewarding to see a match-up between two mostly evenly-matched, great teams with little personal history over the last few years.

Reasons to Root for San Antonio

How can you not be happy for the Spurs? Here are a few reasons you might reconsider, if you’re on the Miami wagon:

  1. In part because Kawhi Leonard is perhaps the most underrated player in the NBA.  It’s easy to love Kawhi because of how much he impacts the game without scoring, plays incredible defense, and how he’s worked at his game, improving dramatically, while he’s only 21 years-old.  Mike Breen keeps mentioning how quiet Kawhi is, but perhaps Breen has no idea why—five years ago, while his father worked at the Comptom, California Car Wash he owned–the car wash where he and Kawhi used to spend their weekends together–his father Mark was murdered, and Kawhi, naturally a somewhat reserved kid, let his game do all the talking from that point on.  Read Sam Amick‘s 2011 story in Sports Illustrated here:
  2. In part because it’s the endlessly talked-about Heat, and…
  3. In part because it has been six years since the Spurs have been in the Finals, the endings of dynasties carry more weight, and…
  4. In part because I’ve always respected Duncan (even if I was bored with how consistently dominant he was, and…
  5. In part because I’ve started to realize that the NBA will not be the same without its Pop, and…
  6. In part because while ESPN and ABC and the sports media gossiped about the Heat, the Knicks and the Lakers all year, the small-television markets in Memphis, Indianapolis and San Antonio, flew under the media radar as usual, and…
  7. In part because there just isn’t enough respect for the Spurs’ role players (Leonard’s amazing baseline offensive rebound and put-back over Wade in the 4th quarter; Tiago Splitter’s patience while posting up LeBron; Danny Green’s consistency from the deep wing), and…
  8. In part because of the decision-making and artistry of Tony Parker: forget the points and the assists (Jeff Van Gundy made the excellent point that the assists are low because it’s the second pass that is leading to good looks, because of how excellent Miami’s defensive rotations are), with Parker, just consider how often he had the ball in his hands in Game One.  Zero turnovers with the ball in his hands that much?

That clean zero for Parker in the turnover column, stayed at zero because he somehow managed to maintain his dribble while falling to his knees (Bob Cousy flashbacks, anyone?), and got a double-pump shot off, with one-tenth of a second left on the shot-clock and 7 seconds remaining.  Listening to LeBron James (quietly put-up a triple-double, if that’s possible, great passing to the corners) in the post-game, describing the play (“He did everything wrong and everything right on the same play”) it was a moment to consider.

LeBron doesn’t like to accept reality.  He likes to dictate reality, and, on the court, he gets what he wants most of the time, because he’s just that good.  The whole “Witness” campaign probably exacerbates that tendency within LeBron.  Think of the way he sprinted back to the opposite end of the court, receiving a technical for the strange maneuver, after he didn’t get what he wanted on that Hibbert collision at the rim in Game 6.

And guess what the reality is today?  Parker did everything right on that play, and LeBron couldn’t stop him when it mattered most, because LeBron is a human being, and can’t always dictate the outcome himself.  Call it luck.  Call it a miracle play.  Call it whatever you’d like.

I’ll call it the craftiest point guard in the NBA today doing exactly what he had to do at exactly the right time, refusing to turn the ball over, like a little kid refusing to give the big kid his favorite toy at nursery-school play-time.  And I’ll call it San Antonio One, Miami Zero.

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