06 June 2007

NBA Finals Preview

The NBA finals start tomorrow, as Lebron James and Cleveland visit San Antonio to take on Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Conventional wisdom is that the Cavaliers have no chance against the mighty Spurs: No ESPN prognosticators picked them, and out of more than 138,000 voters in one internet poll, only about 30% believed that the Cavaliers could win. Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Here’s why: Lebron James right now is playing some of the best basketball he has ever played. Even if you don’t think he can repeat his performance from game 5 against the Pistons, he’s more than capable of putting up numbers like he did in the clinching game 6 – when, despite shooting only 3-11 from the field, he scored 20 points, pulled down 14 rebounds, and dished out 8 assists.

Here’s why: the rest of the Cavs are finally giving Lebron some support. Larry Hughes is healthy. Sasha Pavlovic is finally turning into the player the Cavs hoped he would be when they drafted him in the first round in 2003. Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Anderson Varejao are pulling in rebounds like David Blaine’s magnets are attached to their hands. And Daniel Gibson has developed from nowhere into a deadly outside shooting presence that perfectly complements Lebron’s, Hughes’, and Pavlovic’s drive-and-kick abilities.

Here’s why: the Spurs aren’t invincible. They don’t have anyone who can match up to Lebron (who does?). They’re weak at center, where Francisco Elson and Fabricio “Oh boy!” Oberto each give up at least 3 inches and 15 pounds to the lumbering, stumbling Zydrunas Ilgauskas. They have a relatively shallow bench; only 7 players play as many as 20 minutes per game.

Am I saying that the Cavaliers are going to win the NBA championship? No. San Antonio is, overall, the better team. But the series will by no means be as lopsided as some pundits would have you believe.

Spurs in 6.

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