Spurs vs. Pacers vs. Heat

Will Tim Duncan get his 5th ring?

Will Tim Duncan get his 5th ring?

Who would have thought that the San Antonio Spurs would sweep the series against the Grizzlies and that the Pacers would be tied 3-3 with the Miami Heat. While San Antonio rests, heals, and awaits to find out who they will be playing for their 4th NBA Championship in the last decade, the Heat and Pacers will meet again Monday night. Here’s a quick glance at the advantages each team has over the others and who the Spurs would rather play for the NBA Championship.

The Big Men:
After the Spurs seemingly manhandled one of the best duos down low in the NBA, you would be hard pressed to give any team the big man advantage over the Spurs. Roy Hibbert has been getting a lot of love for his performance against Miami. And is getting even more attention for throwing around gay slurs and calling the media motherf—–s in his post game conference. However, if you were going to ask me whether I’d have a duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph or Roy Hibbert and David West, I’ll take Gasol and Randolph any day of the week.  If San Antonio can deal with Z-bo and Gasol, they can handle Hibbert and West. Hibbert averaged 11.9 PPG and  8.3RPG during the season. Against Miami, he’s bumped that up to 22.8PPG and 10.8RPG. So how has Hibbert suddenly found himself and become an unstoppable threat down low? I’m going to say no.
Miami’s presence down low is abysmal. Chris Bosh has already been having a career low in rebounding, and against the Pacers is getting a whopping 3.7RPG. 3.7! That’s completely ridiculous for a 6’11 All-Star player. Look at Bosh’s RPG this season against teams with reputable centers or power forwards in the league. Against Brooklyn-3.3RPG, Indiana-3.3RPG, Utah-1.0RPG, Philadephia-3.3RPG. Chris Bosh doesn’t shut down opposing big men, he gets shut down and dominated. Possession control wins in the post season. Hibbert’s excellence right now is more a byproduct of Miami’s atrociousness at handling big men. Hell, if the Pacers leave Hibbert in game 1, James probably doesn’t get the game winning lay up at the buzzer and maybe there isn’t even a game 7. I don’t expect Hibbert to keep up this level of play against a team such as San Antonio. He’s a good center, but his regular season numbers speak volumes. As far as Miami goes, it’s not the big men that win games, its LeBron James.

Advantage: San Antonio Spurs
Whether it’s the Pacers or the Heat, San Antonio will have the advantage in the big man category. Obviously they would prefer to deal with Miami down low rather than the Pacers, but when you have the best power forward of all time playing alongside one of the leagues best coaches, you have the advantage. The Big Fundamental and a fundamentals coach made their statement against the Grizzlies. They can play down low against anyone in the league. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, its all about Timmy D, and he’s going to get his.

Small-Forward:
Kawhi Leonard is an ever-growing asset to the San Antonio franchise and seems to just be getting better and better. Paul George emerged this year as an All-Star and one of the best all around players in the league. But NOONE can argue that Miami does not have the advantage in the small forward position. LeBron James is the greatest basketball player on Earth. Both the Pacers and the Heat have the advantage against San Antonio in the Small Forward position, but the Spurs would rather face Paul George than LeBron James against them on the court.

Advantage: Miami Heat
You never want to play against LeBron James. Plain and Simple.

Shooting Guard:
It appears that the NBA gods decided to plague the shooting guards left in the playoffs. Dwayne Wade’s stats this post season are 13.6PPG, 4.6RPG, 5.1APG, Manu’s 11.5PPG, 4.5RPG, and 5.4APG, and Lance Stephenson 9.4PPG, 7.7RPG, and 3.2APG. Look at that again, Lance Stevenson is performing at nearly the same level of Manu Ginobili and Dwayne Wade. Throw that in with the injury worries of Ginobili and Wade, and Stevenson may be the one to fear. He has that NBA Live ‘He’s on Fire’ ability that gets the Indiana crowd going wild when playing t home. While he’s playing well right now, theres no way I’m going to put him above Wade and Ginobili. Both are perrenial All-Stars for a reason. Despite Wade’s abysmal performance these past few games and his knees that seem to aged 30 years, everyone remembers his Finals performance against Dallas that gave Miami their championship pre-LeBron. And Ginobili can go from having a horrible shooting performance, to nailing the game winning shot with no time left.

Advantage: No Team
If Dwayne Wade and Ginobili continue their sub par performances, they are nearly comparable to Lance Stephenson. I never thought he’d be in the conversation for advantage at shooting guard but he’s there. Not because he’s playing at an all star level, but because the other two have fallen. I’m not basing this on the potential or sheer talent of the players, but the way their performing this post season.

Point Guard:

Tony Parker is one of the most underrated point guards in the league. Without Tony Parker, there is no way that the Spurs are in the Finals. The Spurs offense begins and ends with him and he runs the pick-and-roll to near perfection. Parker’s averaging 23.0PPG, 3.9RPG, and 7.2APG, but his team role goes beyond the numbers. He facilitates the Spurs game plan and conducts the team perfectly. He’s carried his team to a championship and won Finals MVP and I won’t be surprised the least if he does it again.
Who would have thought that George Hill could potentially get to the NBA Finals the same year as a Pacer as he could have as a Spur. Popovich may be going against one of the players he mentored, and while he’s a good point guard and can run the offense, he’s no Tony Parker. He’s an efficient player and can do his job, but it won’t be at an All Star level.
We all remember Dwayne Wade yelling “Mario F—ing Chalmers” after his stellar performance against the Thunder last year. If it wasn’t for his potential to randomly go off for 20+ points, hit those game winning shots he’s been doing since he left Kansas, or for his ridiculous outfit in Miami’s Harlem Shake video, I wouldn’t even talk about him. Like Hill, Chalmers does his job and can randomly have scoring outbursts. Neither player though will take the game over and be the reason his team succeeds.

Advantage: San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker is one of the best point guards in the league while the others aren’t even in the conversation. As far as a game manager goes, it doesn’t get much better than Tony Parker.

Coaching:
Advantage: San Antonio Spurs
I’m not even going to give this one an elaborate explanation. I commend Frank Vogel and Erik Spoelstra for leading their teams to the Eastern Conference Finals but I’m not going to say they are better than Popovich. Popovich is that coach that never seems to panic and always gets the best out of his players. He commands respect from his players and his authority is never questioned. He is one of the main reasons that the Spurs have been one of the most dominant teams throughout the past decade. He’s one of the greatest coaches the NBA has seen and his coaching acumen cannot be questioned. The fact that every player seems to develop and improve under his coaching is testimony to his coaching skill.

Who would the Spurs rather face?
The Indiana Pacers

I don’t think that it’s the question that the Spurs would rather play the Indiana Pacers. Their make up is not much different than that of the Grizzlies. They operate an inside-out game plan with athletic wing players. Paul George may be able to give them some trouble but Kawahi Leonard is a fantastic on ball defender and could potentially contain him. If I hadn’t seen the Spurs perform so well against the Grizzlies and be able to grind out and win those close games, I may underestimate their ability to contain Indiana’s big men. A series sweep against one of the best teams in the West though speaks volumes. Throw that in with Popovich’s time to analyze the Pacer’s game tape the past week along with the Spurs’ players getting rest, and you have a team that can handle anyone in the Finals.
While many would argue that the Spurs may do better playing against the Heat in the Finals, they have the ultimate X-factor. I don’t think that any team wants to match up against the best player in the world. There is just too much that can go wrong. Also, the funk that Bosh and Wade are in can’t continue forever. If those two can turn it on and LeBron plays to his usual level, the Heat rattle off the wins. One of the most important factors though is that these two teams didn’t play against eachother in the season. The Spurs infamously sat Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili right before their away game against Miami, and Miami sat Wade and James away against the Spurs. Both games were close despite the missing All-Stars. While the Spurs would probably rather match up against the Pacers, a Spurs-Heat Finals is the one I’m hoping for.
I want to see the ultimate team ball against the star studded cast of the Miami Heat. A team that announced themselves with a rock concert versus the quiet reserved players of the Spurs. One of the most dominant teams for the past decade going against the team that plans to rattle off “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships. The series could signal the closing of a dynasty or the beginning of a new one, and something all basketball fans should want to see.

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Tye Masters
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America’s Favorite Pastime: Past its Time

Derek Jeter isn’t the only one upset about the state of the MLB right now.

The Cover 4 will feature a number of writers to cover a variety of topics. This article is by our very own Long Island Sound, Sports Activist.

It can easily be seen throughout sports and pop culture in America that the NFL, NBA, and soccer are on the rise, and the once glorified sport of baseball is on the decline.  No one finds this more unfortunate and painful to present than yours truly, but the days of Peter Gammons and Timmy K are now gone.

As a preface, society in general has become faster and faster over the last decade.  Information cannot come quicker.  First, the email. Next, the text message. Now, the capability to do both on a phone.  Need to scan? Oh, there is an app for that.  Any project from construction to video game development cannot be produced fast enough because owners want their new toy to sell to consumers.  With all of the enhancements and societal shifts, baseball has happened to stand pat with regards to technology while providing a slower product.

Taking the sports on the rise individually, developments can be seen in each aspect that generate its current prominence.

The most watched and followed sport right now is the NFL.  Some may ask why?  “South Park” portrayed it best by every child in America can be diagnosed with ADD by a doctor, but the fact is we have a very limited attention span as humans.  Each NFL team only plays 16 games, ultimately resulting in every game being important.  Each Sunday (Thursday and Monday now) there is an underlying story other than winning and division standings.  For example, the Colts played the Titans last week.  Was that the Game of the Week for CBS? No, but people wanted to watch Andrew Luck develop. Is Chris Johnson done, and is Jake Locker a NFL quarterback?  How did that game turn-out?  Each and every game on the schedule presents an underlying story that is watchable.  Also, the sky rocketing of fantasy football has only driven popularity; making neutral office workers tune in for work place bragging rights.  Plus, when was the last time you watched a Marlins vs. Astros game?  2003, when the Killer Bs took on Beckett, Burnett, and Dontrelle?  Exactly.  ALMOST A DECADE AGO.

Next, the NBA has fallen into its greatest player class since the days of Magic and Bird.  Jordan carried the league through all of the 90s to hand it off to Shaq, Kobe, and the Spurs.  Beginning with Kobe and now LeBron, the NBA has aligned itself into mega-powers across the corners of the nation.  From Miami, LA, NY/Brooklyn, and OKC, the NBA has founded powerhouses throughout the country with competitive markets in-between much like an equally balanced Risk board.  Also, the underprivileged, athletic youth in America tend to take on basketball because of the minimal price to play. All you need is a ball and hoop.  A great amount of young athletes are now taking to the NFL and NBA, which diminishes the actual athletic talent pool from baseball.  It can be argued the MLB actually has Triple A teams in the majors.  The Houston Astros are a minor league team with a hill in centerfield.

Lastly, this may come as a surprise to some but soccer is on the rise in the US.  The common argument with soccer is that team USA is not globally competitive. While this statement has been true of past teams, USA has arguably become a better team in the recent decade.  It may come as a surprise to some but a large portion of the recent successes of Soccer in America can be attributed to the EA Sports FIFA video game series.  The FIFA series has gained steam in the past five to six years; gaining a large followership across the country. Concurrently, playing the game increases fans knowledge of the game and players, while conveying the intricate skill of the sport.

Soccer is 90 minutes (+/- 5) with a 20 minute half.  One can leave their house in 110 minutes guaranteed (not a cup game in this situation).  We all know the common exchange, “When are you heading over?” Typical reply, “After the game!”  If that game is Red Sox vs Yankees, that could be 2.5 hours if ’07 Beckett shows up or 4.5 hours is Dice-K and Phil Hughes get after it; that just does not work for us anymore.  Today, everything we download has a defined “time remaining”.  Twitter has 140 characters; short and sweet.  We are a right now culture that is phasing out the leisurely “watch a ball game” because we have things to do with limited time.  Additionally, the advancement of technology has made information and knowledge transfer faster, but the amount of information demanded has increased with it and those expectations are burdensome.

Overall, it hurts to admit, but baseball is behind the times of right now.  Growing up playing and loving baseball, the product that is presented on a day-to-day basis does not suffice with 162 games defining a regular season.  To quote Colin Cowherd, “Baseball is like the stubborn Grandfather who still doesn’t have internet, it’s not cute anymore; just old.”

Long Island Sound

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