If tonight is in fact the final game of the basketball season, let me say thanks for a fun year. It’s been a blast to pontificate about college and NBA hoops for a fourth season on the sportsgeek, and share a voice and forum with so many fellow passionate basketball fans and handicappers. I’m hopeful this series may at some point live up to the promise it showed a little over a week ago, but after the last two performances by the Spurs and lack of performance by the Heat) in Miami, it’s a bit of an optimistic stretch to see the Heat going TO San Antonio tonight and immediately solving their tremendous offensive and defensive woes. They aren’t likely to get magically deeper. It’s a little late in the season to acquire a competent point guard (how much money has Mario Chalmers cost himself the last week?? Wow). And unless one of LeBron’s teammates begin to contribute, this thing is O-V-E-R, over.
So, just in case this is it for us my friends, thanks again for a fun season!
Do the two-time defending champs have anything left in the tank? Can they battle back for one heroic effort and get this series back to South Beach? Or is it a foregone conclusion that Timmy Duncan will capture his fifth NBA title, nearly 15 years after capturing his first?
Let’s dig into tonight’s Game Five matchup for a deeper look.
NBA Finals Game Five – (Spurs Lead 3-1)
Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs -5.5 (Total: 197)
To be honest, I am a little surprised that the Spurs are only favored by 5.5. They have won all three games in this series by 15 or more points. Their only loss was by 2 (OK, that was a garbage, meaningless buzzer three by Manu, but a 5 point win is still slim by comparison), and they picked apart and seemingly ripped the soul right out of the Heat on back-to-back games in Miami that were not competitive for a single minute. At NO POINT in Games 3 or 4 could an objective, unbiased fan believe Miami had any chance of winning.
So, what evidence is there that the Heat can even compete tonight, let alone win a game?
I want to believe the mythology of the “heart of a champion.” I want to root for a resilient “I’m the real MVP” performance by LeBron to put in his future Hall of Fame time capsule. I want more basketball after tonight.
But “want” doesn’t always equal “real.” And as one of my college finance professors liked to say “hope isn’t a good investment strategy.” Thinking the Heat will win tonight feels like “hope” and an accidental bias towards mythology. It doesn’t feel like a good basketball-based betting strategy.
Here’s my armchair analysis of the NBA Finals – and to me, all you need to know about tonight’s matchup is the way these respective teams are playing offense. Watch the ratio of passes to dribbles by each team. I was bugging the nonsense out of people watching the game with me with this fact during the third quarter, but possession after possession I was proven correct. The Spurs passed more than twice as often as they dribbled for about a five minute stretch. The result? Easy, uncontested open shots. Over that same stretch, Miami dribbled about 3.5 times as often as they passed. The result? Contested, difficult shots – often late in the shot clock.
If this is indeed a “make or miss” league, I’d much rather take my chances with higher quality, uncontested shots. The Spurs get them all game long. The Heat do not.
It really is that simple. I hope I’m wrong. I want more hoops.
But I don’t think I will be…