In the last 48 hours fans have witnessed basketball being played at its best: excellent guard play, masterful defensive execution, highlight worthy dunks, and superb second half coaching adjustments. Each day this week fans have seen the NBAs brightest stars as well as a glimpse at the stars to come with the NBA Draft Lottery being televised.
Every playoff game promo will include highlights of the franchises star player and at the end of the game one of these promising stars will get the interview or make front page headlines for their play on the court and their decorum during the interview. However, despite the fan fare, banners and endorsements, stars alone do not guarantee you a championship.
During the Bulls Dynasty when Michael Jordan ‘led’ the Bulls to six championships cementing his place as the greatest player of all time. However, if it was not for the clutch shooting of John Paxson in the 1993 NBA Finals it is possible that league MVP Charles Barkley may have won a NBA Championship. Or again in the 1997 NBA Finals when Steve Kerr hit the game winning shot in Game 6 to clinch another NBA Championship for the Chicago Bulls.
The contributions by role players is a key ingredient to winning an NBA Championship, without their contribution hoisting the trophy at the end of the season is not possible.
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami’s bench played a major role in the Heat defeating Celtics, offsetting the spectacular performance by Rajon Rondo (44 pts 10 asst 8 reb). Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem have played extremely well during the playoffs, making defensive stops and hitting jumpers in the clutch. In all honesty, if it was not for the play of their bench, Miami may have lost Game 2 due to Dwayne Wade and Lebron James missing free throws that would have ended the game during regulation.
In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the bench of the OKC Thunder finally showed some life, and spearheaded their victory over the Spurs who appeared to be shell-shocked by the pace and play of the Thunder bench. Although Russell Westbrook fashion cents will be front page headlines, the grit of Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins was infectious, their effort on the court made the rest of the team play harder. Not known for their defense, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fed off of the play of their two best defensive players and made the Spurs winning streak a thing of the past.
With two games on the horizon it will be interesting to see how each team adjusts and observe how much home court will play a role in deciding who wins the next game. Three factors will ultimately determine the outcome of the upcoming cames and the eventual NBA champion:
- How the upcoming games are officiated
- Which role player will develop the clutch gene
- What second half adjustments will the coach make to give his team an edge
There are times when you learn from losing and I believe the Spurs got a well-needed reality check. I still believe the Spurs will beat the Thunder in six games and face the Miami Heat in the NBA Championship. If Lebron wants to win his first championship he will have to beat the team who swept him in his first NBA Finals Appearance. Stay tuned, I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)