NBA Conference Finals: News and Notes – By Cameron Heffernan – Updated

The Spurs look to close out the Grizzles at home, and Miami gets back on course.

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Update: So.. The Spurs swept. Who saw that coming? Not me, that’s for sure. Seeing as I said Memphis would win tonight, and San Antonio would win it all at home. Spurs fans will have to wait for the confetti – which is a possibility, seeing as the Spurs have gone to the Finals four times since 1999, and they’ve won all four. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 37 points and six assists in the 93-86 series clinching win. Manu Ginobli, also may have sold his soul in order for the Spurs to get this far, racking up six points, six assists and six rebounds.

The Quest For a Fifth:

Not many saw a team, including two over-35 year olds, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner, sweeping the feel good story of the NBA playoffs. The Spurs haven’t yet accomplished that feat – for the second time now, after beating Golden State in six – but they can tonight.

Earlier in the playoffs, a friend and I were discussing the then wide open-ness of the Western Conference, after Russell Westbrook went down. We discussed two teams as actual contenders, which were the Grizzles and the Spurs. He said that the Grizzles had enough to run over an old team like the Spurs. I stood by the fact that, not only had the Spurs been there before, but, they would be looking for revenge for there upset loss, at the hands of the Grizzles in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. They also have two of the three best players in the series.

When the Grizzles and Spurs actually met in the Western Conference Finals, I immediately began to reconsider my previous belief. The Grizzles looked poised to wipe the floor with the Spurs after San Antonio fought through a draining series in Golden State. The opposite happened, and by never saying anything, I looked like a basketball genius.

The Spurs didn’t eek out victories in overtime over, an at times better Grizzles’ team. They dominated. After blowing the doors off game one, 105-83, the Spurs went tit-for-tat with Memphis in game two, taking it in overtime, 93-89, then blowing out the Grizzles in game three’s overtime, 104-93. Tim Duncan scored the Spurs first five points while leading San Antonio in an 18-point comeback victory, all with enough time to maybe get over his divorce, since that’s been affecting him so much (sarcasm). Tim Duncan may be the first athlete who’s going through a divorce, with someone he’s been married to for over 10 years, and is taking it like a champion, I mean, really he may be a champion by the time all is said and done. Also, remember when Pau Gasol’s girlfriend broke up with him before the 2011 playoffs, and the Lakers got swept? These are the things that make Tim Duncan one of the most underappreciated and greatest players of this generation.

Tonight the Spurs have a chance to sweep Memphis, in Memphis, a team that hadn’t lost a game at home these entire playoffs.

I expect Memphis to win tonight, but it’s going to be closed out come game five in San Antonio. Memphis may even blow out the Spurs tonight, but only because San Antonio will most likely, just take the night off. Of course, you wouldn’t expect such a thing from Gregg Popovich, Right? The answer is yes, yes you would.

A Return To Dominating Form:

Did we ever really think Miami wasn’t going to win this series?

It’s nice to think that teams like Indiana, Memphis and Golden State were all going to overachieve and make some kind of stir with the Conference Finals. But in the real world, that stuff just doesn’t happen. Indiana is a “Star Player” short of making the leap. Yes Paul George is next level, in 41 minutes a game, George is averaging 19.4/5.3/7.1 on .414/.301/.730 shooting percentages, but that’s not enough.

Roy Hibbert seems to be evolving offensively as a big man in the playoffs, even though it still looks like he’s throwing a football when he goes for any form of a hook shot. Going from 11.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks to 15.7/10.1/2.3, he’s also upped his free-throw percentage from .667 to .810 in the playoffs. Unfortunately the other team they’re playing has LeBron James, and even though he had some costly turnovers in game two, which Paul George did the same when he had that miraculous three in game one – those turnovers being the whole reason he ended up having to put up such an awful shot, that somehow went in.

LeBron is averaging 25.3/6.8/7.3 with percentage splits of .530 (personal best in playoffs)/.333 (tied for third personal best in playoffs)/.765 (best personal free-throw percentage in playoffs). Then there’s the advanced stats. James’ PER (Player Efficiency Rating), although down from last year (27.9 this year, last year 30.3, with all playoff games played) his True Shooting Percentage jumped .045 points to .621, His Effective Field Goal Percentage is the highest its even been in the playoffs at .565, and that’s only in 12 games. He played 23 last year, so there’s still time for James to excel past his previous playoff marks. Which he more than likely will.

It’s fun to rag on James for not being “clutch”. But, sometimes you really don’t need clutch when ever one-of-two shots is going in and you’re the most efficient basketball player we’ve seen since Irving “Magic” Johnson.

The Silver Lining: As I said the last time, it’s going to be awesome to see if James can overcome the team that once swept him in the “King’s” first Finals appearance. The Spurs on the other hand are a great team – and, as everyone says when there’s nothing else to be said – who match up greatly with Miami. They can exploit Miami’s weakness down low as well as keep solid perimeter shooters on the outside for threes. It’s probably going seven with Miami winning again, at home (big surprise). Or maybe the Spurs are the Bane to LeBron’s Batman, and they’ll just crush his back-to-back championship dreams’ spine over their supposedly old and washed up knee. Either way, it’ll probably be an old-school Finals with a ton of strategizing and even more picks leading to rolls. Gregg Popovich also has the upper hand seeing as he’s the third greatest coach to ever live. Right? We can say that now?

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