Was it good for you too?
Basketball fans were just treated to an incredible series, and leaving behind all the talk of legacies, choking, and the future, it’s rare to experience basketball played at such a high and entertaining level. The Heat may have taken home the trophy, powered by regular season and Finals MVP LeBron James, along with a resurgent Dwyane Wade and the strong defense of Chris Bosh, but the real winner was anyone who tuned in or showed up to watch.
This series had it all: Tony Parker hitting a ridiculous jumper to ice Game 1, Miami responding in Game 2, the Spurs taking a 3-2 series lead heading back to Miami, where they all but sealed a title on the back of Tim Duncan, who turned in an all-time performance in the loss.
The level of execution was so high throughout that even the blowouts were interesting through at least the first half. It’s a little hard to believe that in a series which may have been decided by a Mario Chalmers prayer at the end of the 3rd quarter of Game 7 or Tim Freaking Duncan missing two close shots over Shane Battier late in the 4th, that only three of the seven games were determined by less than ten points.
But the series as a whole was so close and so well played that it’s safe to say there hasn’t been one like it in years. Not just the Game 7 – this happened in 2010 with the Lakers and Celtics, but the game itself was an ugly defensive slugfest, and before that the 2005 Spurs-Pistons series went seven, but no one cared. No, what set this series apart was the quality and the competitiveness.
This manifested itself in a number of ways. Rarely do adjustments shift enough that over the course of a series both teams make changes to their starting lineups. We’re not talking about teams that need a boost here, these are Finals teams both deciding to go small halfway through a series and not looking back. They were so evenly matched that the style didn’t really matter.
The individual performances were spectacular as well. Almost every key player had one or two off games, but someone else was always there to pick up the slack. Wade and Manu Ginobili both had mid-series resurrections (with varying degrees of sustainability). Parker played lights out in the first few games before a combination of a leg injury and being hounded by James took their toll. Kawhi Leonard established himself as a beastly defensive presence and tough rebounder who could put the ball in the basket. Even Danny Green managed to garner attention as an unlikely Finals MVP candidate after hitting somewhere around 145 open 3’s in the first five games.
All of this peaked in Game 6, when both Duncan and James submitted all-time performances. Duncan came out of the gate strong with 25 points and 8 rebounds before halftime, eventually finishing with a 30 and 17. James started slow, but after the cathartic losing of his headband he went nuts, ending up with 32 points and a triple double, figures which still seem to sell short the tenacity and desperation he used to drag his team into a 7th game.
All told this Finals will go down as one of the best in the modern era, and hopefully there will be more like it to come.