Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NBA Finals: Thanks for coming, Cleveland

The Spurs are one win away from title #4 after an ugly win in C-Town
Spurs 75, Cavs 72
High score: James, 25
High rebound: Ilgauskas, 18
High Assist: James 7

This non-call on Bowen did not decide GM3- the Cavs inability to seize the game did

The game started with an incredible, Hendrix-esque rendition of the National Anthem by slide guitar magician Ben Harper (wikitrivia: he's married to Laura Dern-yowza!) that brought the already overly-enthused crowd to it's feet and had the players ready to rock & roll.

In fact the whole opening scene for the first NBA finals game in the city's history was befitting a summer Hollywood blockbuster, from the introduction of Tim Duncan first to Lord Vader's theme, to the ear-splitting roar that rose through the crowd when the PA announcer finally introduced King James last amid a cornea-searing display of pyrotechnics.

Unfortunately, then the game began.

The Spurs and Cavs combined to set basketball back 50 years as the two teams managed to score the second-fewest points in a Finals game since dawn of the shot clock era in 1954-55.

They were on pace to shatter the record of 145, held by Ft Wayne & Syracuse in 1955, when the teams had tallied just 130 points (67-63) with 4 1/2 minutes to play, but a late flurry fueled by back-to-back threes and a bunch of frees kept them from the ignominious achievement.

As poorly as both teams shot (Spurs- 41%, Cavs 37%) and as ugly as a game that's 40-38 at halftime and 55-50 after three quarters can be, the thing actually came down to a thrilling conclusion, which is more than can be said for the first two games of the series.

That's because San Antonio, which turned a five-point deficit near halftime into a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter, tried every way humanly possible to give this game to the Cavs.

Want proof? Tim Duncan shot 6-17 (14 points) and grabbed only nine rebounds (the Spurs were out-boarded by Cleveland 48-41); Tony Parker was 7-17 for 17 points, but he did hit one of the clutch treys at the end that may have sealed the MVP for him; and sixth man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili (0-7) nearly dropped a goose egg, netting just three points, all on free throws in the final minute.

The only way the Spurs held the lead was the disparity from the 3-point arc; San Antonio shot a blistering 10-19 (53%), while Cleveland was an atrocious 3-19 (16%), including misses on its 14 of its first 15 attempts-yikes!

Even still the Cavs had plenty of opportunities to take this one back and salvage this series in the final minutes. After taking a 10-point lead at 67-57 with 6 1/2 to play, San Antonio went on a five-minute drought where it missed three shots and turned the ball over three times.

But after Cleveland cut the lead to two, 67-65, on two James (25 points, 8 rebs, 7 ass) free throws, the moment was ripe for the Cavs to snatch the lead, the game, and bring some respect to the city and these woefully rated Finals.

Alas Cleveland could not get over the hump, thanks to some questionable decison making by James (passing it to Varejao down low-why?) and the foul shots by Ginobili, and the Cavs chance to knock some of the bite out of the Spurs and extending this series past four games was lost.

That's why the "controversial" play on James at the end was really more like a minor inconvenience rather than an outrageous oversight that could have changed the game.

LeBron was trying to get free for the game-tying trey with five seconds left, and as he came around the top of the circle, Bowen flailed at him and brushed his shoulders & back, but James still got off a good, unadulterated shot that hit the the rim and came tantalizingly close to going in.

Was Bowen trying to foul James on the final possession with the Spurs up by two and just five seconds to play? Of course, he and his coach admitted as much after the game, but James wasn't in the act of shooting anyway, so it's uncertain if he would have been awarded three frees.

No matter; after initially expressing outrage at the non-call, James backed off in the media room, saying the brush did not affect his shot and he simply missed the 28-footer that could have miraculously tied the game.

Classy move, Bron Bron.

Because he knows the series is all over but the crying.

You know things are bad when the anthem performance is the best part of the game

And there could be a lot of tears flowing into Lake Erie by Thursday night.

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