June 1, 2009
LBJ: Witnessing the Disney Finals at home
So before you yell at me, this is a Conference Finals postmortem, not a preview of the 2009 NBA Finals. We've seen several truths at the concluded Conference Finals: Mike Brown only has one play, and Kobe has a better supporting cast than LBJ. Gotta blame the larger L.A. market for that, though. Or Stern. Blame everything on him.
On the West, the Lakers and the Nuggz were embroiled in the Western shootout ABC were not so happy to broadcast, mainly because Jeff wanted to bash his brother on-air personally, but at least he'd be able to do it this weekend.
The 2009 Western Conference Finals will primarily remembered by hoops fans by this simple metric: the day where Trevor Ariza woke up on the right side of the bed, the Lakers win. On Game 1, he intercepted an inbounds pass to make the Lakers hold on to the lead and defeat Denver. On Game 2, he committed a turnover to led to the Nuggets retaining the lead and tie the series. On Game 3, Ariza deflected another inbounds pass to win the game for the Lakers.
Another thing worth remembering is the emergence of the Birdman. It's like Mulawin, only that he has tattoos. If only Karl gave him a bit more playing time. And yes, he should've gave Sonny Weems (remember him? That Nuggets waterboy during the Slam Dunk Contest) playing time too.
(And as being the #1 Sonny Weems fanboy this side of the ocean, here's the official NBA.com Sonny Weems widget:
Now you can follow Sonny Weems through out the Finals right here!)
A lot has been said about Billups rejuvenating the Nuggets, and even the Nuggets rejuvenating Billups, but when the time needed it -- at the start of the third quarter in Game 6, the Nuggets failed to respond on Chauncey's -- who was wearing John Elway's #7 -- pleas. Maybe Josh Howard and Melo would hook-up on the off-season for some extra-curricular activities.
Back in the East, everyone thought the Magic were lucky to face a Celtics team without KG, even luckier they escaped Game 7 as the Garden with a blowout, but they turned the doubters into middle-of-the-roaders after exhilarating Game 1 win. Hedo made sure Turkey was well-represented well after October. But LeBron wouldn't allow a home-sweep loss by converting that trey that would've been remembered for ages, if things went his way the next few days.
So in Orlando, everyone was expecting the Cavs to steal win, most likely Game 4. As expected, Game 3 was a Magic win, but Game 4 would've cemented the Magic's berth in the Finals: an OT win with Dwight Howard scoring on like 5 dunks making Varejao forget that he was supposed to flop. Maybe the Game 6 refs failed to get the memo. LeBron wouldn't let his team be eliminated at home, with Coach of the Year instructing his team, with the season on the balance, with the simplest of game plans, if ever it deserved to be called as a "game plan": stretch the floor, and give the damn ball to LBJ! It's like Princeton offense only that the man driving through the middle has to do everything.
That "strategy" may work in Cleveland, but in O-Town, the stars must've written the outcome as the Cavs fell flat after the first quarter break, as the Magic pulled away and clinched their first NBA Finals appearance since Shaq was still 300 pounds lighter.
I've always thought that Danny Ferry had done a fine job in Cleveland, with Quicken Loans in bad shape and all, but it seems that the Cavs are one big man away from the title. Mo Williams wasn't the one that they needed, and Szczerbiak and Pavlovic, despite being labeled as shooters, and Europeans, at that, can't shoot consistently.
On the contrary, I thought giving Rashard Lewis an amount of money that can feed the Gambia was too much, but it was a stroke of pure genius: surround Dwight with shooters, and let him wreak havoc at the shaded lane. Jameer Nelson getting lost for the rest of the season was a big blow, but the Magic front office followed it up with a trade that sent Skip To My Lou to Central Florida. It's like Mitch Kupchak only better.
So it's ABC's Dream Finals. Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland (yes, they are two different places). And Jeff can now get to bash Stan on live international TV. And I'll be watching the Red Wings make the Penguins wish they were in the Arctic Circle.
NBA Finals: Where Mickey Mouse grins happens.