Was I watching a basketball game with a lot of three pointers, or an ex-Roman General who wanted revenge? I think I saw an ad for Gladiator on Hardwood in the Express News. The Spurs pulled a Maximus on Tuesday night and scissor chopped the Miami Heat's head off, at least for the time being. The Spurs didn't look like they were responding to a 19 point blowout. They looked like they were coming for blood.
San Antonio had the countenance of a determined Russell Crowe, hellbent on a path to kick some Joaquin Phoenix ass. Gary Neal and Danny Green shared the role of Maximus in Game 3, LARPING on the court that Erik Spoelstra AKA Commodus had just strangled Gregg Popovich in cold blood. They seemed to be pretending as if the Miami Heat had attempted to leave the Spurs for dead, but the Spurs had clawed back. The Miami Heat tried to murder beloved Tony Parker, and "Dary Maximus Greal" just wasn't going to take it. He was going to stab the Heat in the heart with a smorgasbord of three balls, while asking America if they were entertained yet. Were the Spurs angrily responding to a nation who's always favored Isolation Hero Ball over movement and success? It sure seemed like it.
But, it was really the Spurs just being the Spurs. They were not affected by Game 2, or the notion that said the Heat had "figured them out." They got everyone involved, swarming on defense like an agitated pile of fire ants and finding the open shooter. There were no revenge themes, no responses to critics, just the team I remember, back in their white jerseys -- once again showing not only the depth in their lineup, but depth as an organization. Gary Neal, a 28 year old third year player, perpetually confined to Europe after going undrafted out of Towson, showed off not only his own abilities, but those of the front office that took a chance on him. And Danny Green, the shooting guard doing his best Ray Allen impression, showed no signs that he was ever a D-Leaguer with a bad attitude and poor work ethic. Their success in the finals shows just how much Pop is able to extract from his players. This 36 point blowout wasn't just a testament to two sharp shooters, but to the whole organization.
But we didn't just see two guards go off, we saw the best power forward of all time, 37 years young, diving into the first row for loose balls. We saw an Argentinian basketball sensation, now at times a shell of his former self, springing off the hardwood to sky over the rim for a dunk, and closing out quarters with no look passes. We saw a quiet, cornrow-rocking small forward, barely old enough to buy alcohol, playing such good defense on the MVP that LBJ looked like he showed up to school naked. We saw a big three built on years of trusting each other through failures and success, Drake/Chris Brown brawls, and anything else you can imagine, outperform a big three who expected to have that same chemistry just by their talent alone. This was a family protecting their land against a foreign intruder. This was Spurs basketball, and though a nation of LeBron lovers might not have been entertained, I was.
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I still cannot get over that game. Was it real? Did Gary Neal really just score 24 points in a critical Finals game? I wrote a few weeks ago that I wanted Danny Green and Gary Neal to have Robert Horry/Steve Kerr moments in this year's playoffs, and in Tuesday night's 36 point blowout they did just that -- in the same game. I'll forever remember the game where Neal and Green stopped seeing bad guys in red jerseys and instead played HORSE against each other in front of a national audience. I can't imagine how irate Pop was at their aloofness to the fact The Finals were going on. They must have been playing for some McDonalds product, MJ and Bird style. If only the Red Rocket could have gotten in the mix -- I don't know what I want more, a Red Rocket game or a T-Mac game. But, if there was a T-Mac game, I'm afraid the AT&T center might implode and the Screaming Lady would rise from her evil grave to deafen us all.
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De-What about me?
I like DeJaun Blair. He's the dancing bear, he has no ACL's...what's not to like? However, he was reacting to his made shots like they were Michael Jordan butt slap makes against Byron Russell. "Hey Bear, you know we're up 35 right?" Oh well, it's the Finals and I'd probably be pretty pumped too. Imagine what it would've been like 10 years ago if there was a Finals featuring Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier? Blair is probably just charged to be out there with those guys.
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If Tim Duncan wins this championship, he's the fourth best player of all time. I just don't think you can argue against that. He gets added to Mount Rushmore. He becomes the George Harrison of the NBA. 1) Michael Jordan, 2) Bill Russell 3) Magic Johnson 4) Timothy Theodore Duncan. Five titles, in a 14 year span? What an era of dominance. I'd put Larry Bird as the fifth best player of all time and let you guys argue about the rest. Speaking of legacies, this is how I see Kawhi Leonard's career shaping out, especially if he shuts LBJ down for a full series: At worst I think he becomes Andre Iguodala and at best I think he becomes Scottie Pippen. And today I'm bubbling with optimism so I'm gonna lean towards the latter.
What does a loss in this year's finals do to the Miami Heat, and especially LeBron James' legacy? Will a Finals where -- up to this point -- he has averaged less than 18 points per game, tarnish his legend-status? I don't think you can ever compare him to MJ again if he loses this series. And I don't think you can call the Heat one of the best teams ever, even if they win. The Heat, if they lose this Finals, will be forever the Uncle Rico's of the NBA, they'll always be a "what could've been." Pundits and experts will argue for years about what went wrong and point spindly fingers at everyone. Just like Uncle Rico, we will always be wondering what could have happened for the Heat in
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Josh Hartnett dies...Ben Affleck rises
We all know Tony Parker will be limited the rest of this series. However, because the trainers put him back in during a blowout, I doubt the "hamstring strain" is too severe. But I'd bet he still won't be at 100%. The Miami Heat are coming off a 36 point blowout and will be on the edge of the Riverwalk, trying not to fall into a mucky 3-1 series hole with game five at San Antonio. So, with Parker hobbled and the Spurs needing a Game 4 win, the little Frenchman must call on his South American brother to have a vintage game. Yes, Manu Ginobili, you need to be Ben Affleck to Tony's Josh Hartnett. You need to
raise your dead friend's son step up and score big with Tony's injury. Like Affleck, I expect Manu to do so. I think he scores big, and the Spurs take a 3-1 series lead, winning 98-92. Go Spurs Go!