Big game seven tonight, with plenty of story lines and sub plots. To help paint the big picture, hereâ€™s a rundown of who the interested parties are rooting for:
ABC Television executives: â€œPlease give us Shaq and Wade. Please. Weâ€™re down on our hands and knees here.â€
David Stern: â€œI want whatever ABC wants.â€
The San Antonio Spurs: Theyâ€™ve said all the right things â€” that they donâ€™t care who they face â€” and in one aspect they are right because the Spurs should beat either of those teams. But you know they care.
I think the Spurs would prefer the banged-up Heat, mostly for match up reasons. During the regular season the only teams that sort of gave the Spurs problems were teams that 1) played good shooting defense (the Heat and Pistons were almost identical here) or 2) shot well themselves (the Heat had the second best eFG% in the NBA). (As a side note here, what is true of the Spurs is basically all teams, shooting well and keeping your opponent from doing well is obviously Hoops 101 on winning, so teams don’t do as well against teams that do those things.)
Based on that, at first glance you might think the Heat would be a tougher series, but when you look at potential player matchups I think itâ€™s easier to cover the Heat right now. Wade is the biggest problem, but he is slowed by the rib injury and Bowen will make him work for his points, and Parker provides more speed to create problems up top. Then thereâ€™s Shaq â€” the Spurs have 18 fouls to give with Tim Duncan (who will cover the four mostly but can change out), Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic, not to mention double team fouls from Horry and others. Shaq is a force inside, but one that can be slowed down now (unlike, for example, in 2000). For the Heat, the two best +/- players in the playoffs have been the two Joneses, but the Spurs fast-rotating team defense will take away some of their easy looks.
On the other hand, the Pistons may not have a dominant force on offense but they do have a spread of options. Bowen can cover Rip Hamilton, Paker will haunt Billups, Duncan on Rasheed Wallace is another key. But then who stops Tayshaun Prince? The Pistons have more options and Larry Brown will put them in better situations.
Tonightâ€™s referees: Does anyone know what theyâ€™re thinking in this series?
Jerry Buss: If you were on vacation in Europe, likely with a smoking-hot 20-something woman, would you care who won this game? He needs to care more about who is coaching his team, anyway.
Me: Iâ€™m just rooting for a good game. These playoffs need one.