Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 |
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“Good, better, best; Never let it rest …”
That’s the first line of a nursery rhyme San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan credits his mother with repeating to him and his siblings when he was a young boy.
Well, the NBA Playoffs began with 16 teams that had proven worthy over the regular season of being considered “good.” As the rounds progressed, some whithered away while the “better” teams excelled and advanced.
Now we have the ultimate showdown between San Antonio and the Miami Heat to determine who earns the label of 2013’s “best.”
Out West, the Spurs entered as the No. 2 seed and have gone 12-2 in their three series, challenged only by the upstart Warriors in the second round. They bookended that with sweeps of the Lakers and Grizzlies as Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili recreated their all too familiar ensemble performance.
They were on a roll, so the second part of the rhyme could prove prophetic — “never let it rest.” The Spurs finished up their Western Conference Finals series on May 27 and they won’t tip off the NBA
Finals until Thursday night. That’s a 10-day gap between playoff games. Now, there’s probably no team that could use rest more than San Antonio’s veteran group. (“Veteran” is not-so-subtle code for “old.”) But will the layoff be a detriment to a hot team that could do no wrong?
On the other side, the Heat finished up their seven-game series on Monday, playing their best game of the Eastern Conference Finals in the clincher. They flipped the switch to its rightful position and got big performances from Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen in the 99-76 blowout. Momentum would seem to favor Miami, though the physicality they faced against the Indiana Pacers could have some lasting effects. The bumps and bruises will resurface once the adrenaline has worn off and the Heat could struggle to re-summon that necessary energy they showed in Game 7.
LeBron James got Miami to a seventh game almost exclusively by himself. He has no peers among those considered the NBA’s elite. While Kevin Durant seemed to have closed the gap between the two, it widened again once KD running mate Russell Westbrook became sidelined with a torn meniscus. James’ game has evolved so rapidly that there are times when he can be considered the best shooter, passer, rebounder and defender on the court.
The Pacers had four of the five best players in the Eastern Conference Finals, but they still lost. Think about that.
In terms of this particular matchup, San Antonio can do some things that gave Miami problems against Indiana. The Spurs have size to disrupt the Heat on the interior. They should outrebound Miami, which can eliminate some of the Heat’s easy buckets. They have Parker, who had maybe his best season and was as dominant as a point guard can be against the Grizzlies. They also have Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the league, who has instilled the belief in his team that they are never an underdog. If they execute their game plan, the Spurs feel they should never lose.
Against just about any other team, I’d believe them. But let me write that nursery rhyme again, now with its second line in place: “Good, better, best; Never let it rest; Until your good is better, and your better is your best.”
Even if the Spurs push their better to their best, it still won’t be within shouting distance of James’ best. Duncan and the Spurs have been proven winners for 15 years, but four of seven is too much to ask. James is the best player and the Heat are the best team.
The Pick: Miami 4, San Antonio 2
• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to email@example.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI
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