Notes on the Eastern and Western Conference FinalsBoth Conference Finals have gone according to form so far and it seems likely that San Antonio will face Miami in the NBA Finals. Here are some stats and notes about the 2012 edition of the NBA's "Final Four":
- During ESPN's telecast of Miami's 115-111 overtime victory against Boston in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals, Mike Breen mentioned that LeBron James has led his team in scoring, rebounding and assists outright 23 times in his playoff career, more than any other player in NBA history. The usually astute Jeff Van Gundy said that this stat provides an indication of how weak James' supporting cast was in Cleveland. Superficially that seems logical but consider who ranks second to James in this category: Larry Bird, who led the Celtics in scoring, rebounding and assists in 13 playoff games. Bird played alongside two other Hall of Fame big men (Robert Parish, Kevin McHale) and two Hall of Fame point guards (first Nate Archibald, then Dennis Johnson). Bird's supporting cast certainly was not weak and yet he often led the Celtics in scoring, rebounding and assists during playoff competition; a versatile, MVP level player shoulders a lot of responsibility to be consistently productive. Tim Duncan, who ranks third with 11 playoff games as his team's sole leader in points, rebounds and assists, also has had an excellent supporting cast throughout his career. James' often impressive playoff statistics are a tribute to his capabilities but they do not somehow prove that he had a weak supporting cast in Cleveland. However, James' demonstrated ability to impact a game in several ways means that there is no excuse for the two times in his postseason career when his numbers and effort level demonstrate that he quit: the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals versus Boston and the 2012 NBA Finals versus Dallas. James cannot be expected to always shoot well but he can be expected to consistently play with a high energy level.
- Rajon Rondo's 44 point, 10 assist, eight rebound performance for Boston in game two was a truly stunning all-around display: he played all 53 minutes, he hit jumpers (the one part of his game that is normally a weakness), he drove to the hoop, he guarded James on the final play of regulation and he did everything humanly possible to lead the Celtics to victory. In my Miami-Boston preview I predicted that Miami would win the series but said that Boston could prevail if "Rondo goes nuts and is the best player on the court for significant stretches of time." It is a good sign for the Celtics that Rondo proved that he is capable of being the best player on the court despite the presence of three-time MVP James but it is a bad sign for the Celtics that they lost despite Rondo's incredible effort. It would have been very interesting to see how James and the Heat would have reacted to losing home court advantage in the series but now the Celtics face the monumental task of beating the Heat four times in the next five games.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder's impressive 102-82 game three victory over the San Antonio Spurs ended perhaps the "quietest" (in terms of relative media coverage) long winning streak in NBA history, if not in the history of professional sports. The Spurs won 20 straight games, which is tied for the third longest streak in NBA history behind the 1971-72 Lakers (33) and the 2007-08 Rockets (22); the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks also had 20 game winning streaks. The Spurs were incredibly dominant, winning 15 of those 20 games by 10 or more points. The Spurs' winning streak is the longest combined regular season/playoff winning streak in NBA history and the first 20-plus game winning streak in NBA history that spanned both the regular season and the playoffs, beginning with the last 10 regular season games and then extending through the Spurs' first 10 playoff games; the 2000-01 Lakers won their last eight regular season games and their first 11 playoff games. Did the Thunder merely prevent a sweep or did they take the first step toward extending this series to six or seven games?
posted by David Friedman @ 3:11 PM